An organizing role for the N-methyl-D-aspartate (NMDA) receptor/channel has been suggested in the development of the retinotectal projection in Rana pipiens. The regional distributions of NMDA, phencyclidine (PCP) and quisqualic acid (QA) receptors were quantified using in vitro autoradiography in the tectum of normal and surgically produced 3-eyed juvenile frogs. NMDA and QA receptor binding was highest in the pretectum. Of the tectal layers, the superficial retinotectal synaptic zone, layer 9, had the highest amount of NMDA and QA receptor binding. Moderate binding was observed in layer 5, with little binding in the cellular layer 6. No specific [3H]N-(1-[2-thienyl]cyclohexyl) piperidine ([3H]TCP) binding was observed in any of the tectal regions.