Developmental mechanisms that regulate the areal and laminar distribution of various macromolecules, including neurotransmitter receptors in the cerebral cortex, are not known. In the present study, we examined the development of monoaminergic receptors in the rhesus monkey striate and peristriate visual cortex in the absence of input from the retina. Binocular enucleation was performed between embryonic days E60 and E81, prior to the ingrowth of geniculocortical fibers into the cortical plate and before genesis of the granular and supragranular layers of the visual cortex. The animals were delivered at term (E165) and sacrificed at 2 or 12 months of age, and their brains frozen and the occipital lobes cut at 20 microns in the coronal plane. Cortical binding of 3H-clonidine, 125I-pindolol, 3H-5-HT, 3H-ketanserin, 3H- spiperone, 3H-SCH23390, and 3H-prazosin that label various monoamine receptors were autoradiographically visualized and quantified using a computer imaging system. All radioligands displayed specific laminar patterns in the striate and prestriate areas in both groups of animals. The areal and laminar distribution in the anophthalmic monkeys was similar to that in the controls. Significantly, in all enucleated animals, just as in the controls, a particularly high density of 3H- clonidine and 3H-prazosin was observed in the sublayers of layer IV involved in color vision. The present results show that the monoamine receptors in primate visual cortex can establish and maintain distinct laminar and areal patterns in the absence of activity or molecular cues originated from the retina, and provide new insight into the cortical consequences of secondary congenital anophthalmia.