The subunit compositions of the NR1 C2 exon-containing N-methyl-D-aspartate (NMDA) receptors of adult mammalian forebrain were determined by using a combination of immunoaffinity chromatography and immunoprecipitation studies with NMDA receptor subunit-specific antibodies. NMDA receptors were solubilised by sodium deoxycholate, pH 9, and purified by anti-NR1 C2 antibody affinity chromatography. The purified receptor subpopulation showed immunoreactivity with anti-NR1 C2, anti-NR1 N1, anti-NR1 C2', anti-NR2A, and anti-NR2B NMDA receptor antibodies. The NR1 C2-receptor subpopulation was subjected to immunoprecipitation using anti-NR2B antibodies and the resultant immune pellets analysed by immunoblotting where anti-NR1 C2, anti-NR1 C2', anti-NR2A, and anti-NR2B immunoreactivities were all found. Quantification of the immunoblots showed that 46% of the NR1 C2 immunoreactivity was associated with the NR2B subunit. Of this, 87% (i.e., 40% of total) were NR1 C2/NR2B receptors and 13% (6% of total) were NR1 C2/NR2A/NR2B, thus identifying the triple combination as a minor receptor subset. These results demonstrate directly, for the first time, the coexistence of the NR2A and NR2B subunits in native NMDA receptors. They show the coexistence of two splice forms of the NR1 subunit, i.e., NR1 C2 and NR1 C2', in native receptors and, in addition, they imply an NMDA receptor subpopulation containing four types of NMDA receptor subunit, NR1 C2, NR1 C2', NR2A, and NR2B, which, in accord with molecular size determinations, predicts that the NMDA receptor is at least tetrameric. These results are the first quantitative study of NMDA receptor subtypes and demonstrate molecular heterogeneity for both the NR1 and the NR2 subunits in native forebrain NMDA receptors.