Cellular retinaldehyde binding protein (CRALBP) is present in Müller glia and in cells of the retinal pigment epithelium, but we have recently observed CRALBP-like immunoreactivity near the inner limiting membrane in the newborn mouse retina. The present study has examined whether this protein is present in developing retinal astrocytes. Retinal tissue was collected at various embryonic and postnatal ages and in adulthood. Tissue for immunohistochemistry was fixed by immersion in 4% paraformaldehyde and immunostained using rabbit polyclonal antisera to CRALBP or glial fibrillary acidic protein (GFAP), while fresh tissue was homogenized for Western analysis. Specificity of the antiserum for the 33 kDa protein was shown in retinal homogenates by immunoblotting, with expression of the protein increasing steadily from E15.5 through adulthood. Immunostaining of sections from fetal eye-cups revealed faint labeling of cells in the optic nerve, with progressive migration of CRALBP-immunoreactive cells into the retina at the inner limiting membrane during the perinatal period. By the day of birth, these cells were intensely immunoreactive, showing a morphology characteristic of migrating astrocytes. These CRALBP-immunoreactive cells mimicked the progressive infiltration of GFAP-positive astrocytes which are known to migrate into the retina from the optic nerve head, many of which were double-labeled with GFAP. Their distribution across the retina is distinct from that of the lighter-staining Müller glial somata during these stages, and they are not misidentified Müller glial endfeet. Astrocytes are only transiently CRALBP-immunoreactive, no longer containing the protein after the second post-natal week. Preincubation of the antiserum with purified CRALBP abolished all staining of astrocytes. Coupled with the fact that only a single (approximately 33 kDa) molecular weight protein is labeled by the antiserum, it was concluded that retinal astrocytes contain CRALBP during a limited period of development.