Intracellular calcium, important in a variety of second messenger cascades, is regulated in part by calcium-binding proteins such as calretinin, parvalbumin, and calbindin. These proteins are highly concentrated in the rat main olfactory bulb and are localized in distinct neuronal populations. In the present study, postnatal expression was characterized immunohistochemically in normal rats and in rats with functional olfactory deprivation caused by unilateral naris closure, a manipulation that attenuates electrical activity in the bulb. Bulbs were examined from rats that had undergone naris closure or sham surgery on either postnatal day 1 (P1) or P30 and were allowed varying subsequent survival times. Each of the calcium-binding proteins showed both distinct patterns of early expression and differential susceptibility to olfactory restriction. For example, at P10, the densest immunoreactivity was observed for calretinin, a protein whose expression was the least affected by naris closure. After occlusion from P1-P30, there was a 30% reduction in the density of calbindin-immunoreactive profiles in the glomerular layer, and parvalbumin-immunoreactive profiles were reduced by 64% in the external plexiform layer. Unlike many other changes induced by deprivation, the effects of olfactory restriction on calbindin and parvalbumin expression were not age dependent: naris closure from P30-P60 caused similar substantial decreases in calbindin and parvalbumin immunoreactivities. These data demonstrate that the expression of calbindin and parvalbumin in rat bulb is regulated, in part, by afferent activity that is associated with full sensory experiences. The reductions of these calcium-binding proteins following olfactory deprivation are likely to be commensurate with altered control of intracellular calcium.