The distribution of expression during retinal differentiation of nine AMPA and kainate glutamate receptor subunit genes was studied by in situ hybridization. Transcripts encoding all subunits were detected in the inner nuclear and ganglion cell layers of the developing mouse retina, but their time courses of expression differed. The earliest expression was detected at embryonic day 14 (E14) for GluR1, GluR4 and KA-2; all the other subunits were first detected at E16. Most subunits were expressed at higher levels during development than in the adult. This suggests they play a role in the processes of neuronal differentiation and synaptogenesis that occur during the early postnatal days in the rodent retina.