Background During development the switch from a depolarizing to a hyperpolarizing action of GABA is a consequence of a decrease of the Na+-K+-2Cl- co-transporter (NKCC1, Cl--uptake) and increase of the K+-Cl- co-transporter (KCC2, Cl--extrusion) expression. However albino visual cortex neurons don't show a corresponding decrease in intracellular chloride concentration during development of the visual system as compared to pigmented animals. Results Our study revealed that more cells express NKCC1 in albinos compared to pigmented rat visual cortex neurons whereas KCC2 is expressed in all cells in both strains. We determined a positive relationship between the presence of NKCC1 and an inhibitory deficit in single neurons of the albino visual cortex. After pharmacological blockade of NKCC1 function with its specific inhibitor, bumetanide, the reversal potential of electrically evoked GABAA receptor-mediated postsynaptic currents and, as a consequence, [Cl-]i in albino visual cortex neurons shifted to the pigmented rat brain value. In conclusion, our pharmacological experiments and subsequent single cell real time PCR analysis of the co-transporter mRNA demonstrated that the inhibitory deficit present in the albino visual cortical network is almost exclusively mediated by NKCC1. Conclusion Our findings suggest that blocking of NKCC1 in albino visual cortex neurons could improve processing in visual cortex and therefore might be beneficial for vision in albinos.