The postnatal development of GAD67 and GAD65 protein expression and of GAD67 positive neurons and GAD65 containing axon terminals in cat visual cortex was studied. Western blot analysis showed that the expression of both GAD67 and GAD65 increased to approximately two-thirds of the adult level during the first 5 postnatal weeks and gradually increased thereafter. In adult cats, immunohistochemistry showed that GABA and GAD67 containing neurons were found in all cortical layers. Faint cell body staining was seen with the antibody to GAD65, but it densely labeled puncta. In neonates, GABA and GAD67 immunoreactivity was most intense in two distinct bands, one superficial (Layer 1/Marginal zone), another deep (Layer VI/Subplate). Unlike in adults, GAD65 positive cell bodies were clearly evident in neonates and distributed similarly to, but less frequently than, GABA and GAD67. These GAD65 positive cells frequently had morphologies suggestive of embryonic cells and largely disappeared in older animals. During postnatal development, the neurochemical differentiation of GAD67 positive neurons and GAD65 positive axon terminals across visual cortical laminae followed an inside-outside developmental pattern, which reached adult levels after 10 weeks of age. These results suggest that postnatal development of the visual cortical GABA system involves three distinct processes: (A) a dying off of embryonic GABA cells which could play a role in formation of the cortical plate; (B) a period of relative quiescence of the VC GABA system in the first 5 postnatal weeks which could maximize excitatory NMDA effects during the rising phase of the critical period; (C) the prolonged postnatal maturation of the adult GABA system which could be involved in the crystallization of adult physiological properties and the disappearance of neural plasticity.