We have studied the immunocytochemical localization of microtubule-associated proteins (MAPs) in rat retinal cells. Using biochemical and immunochemical methods we have identified microtubule-associated protein 1 (MAP1) and microtubule-associated protein 2 (MAP2) as major MAPs in the rat retina. With indirect immunofluorescence microscopy, the inner plexiform layer and the ganglion cell layer were stained with both anti-MAP1A antibody and anti-MAP2 antibody. Cells at the inner margin of the inner nuclear layer were prominently stained with anti-MAP2, but not with anti-MAP1A. Thin section-immunoelectron microscopy using colloidal gold-labeled secondary antibodies revealed MAP1A and MAP2 staining in the neuronal processes of the inner plexiform layer. A filamentous network between the microtubules in the neurites was stained with both antibodies. The developmental course of expression of MAP1A and MAP2 in rat retina was studied by indirect immunofluorescence microscopy. Although MAP2 was already present at 1 day postnatal, MAP1A was not detected until 7 days postnatal. These results indicate that: (1) retinal neurons are heterogeneous in their expression of MAPs; (2) retinal ganglion cells show the same intracellular distribution of MAP1A and MAP2 as typical nerve cells such as motor neurons; and (3) MAP1A and MAP2 are differentially expressed in developing rat retina.