Different peptidergic systems have been investigated with some detail during retinal development, including substance P (SP), vasoactive intestinal polypeptide (VIP), pituitary adenylate cyclase activating polypeptide (PACAP) and somatostatin (SRIF). Concerning possible developmental actions of neuropeptides, VIP and PACAP exert protective and growth-promoting actions that may sustain retinal neurons during their development. In addition, the presence of transient SRIF expressing cells and recent observations in SRIF receptor knock out mice indicate variegated roles of this peptide in the development of the retina and of retinofugal projections. Finally, recent studies have shown that, in the developing rabbit retina, changes in the expression pattern of SP receptors are accompanied by modifications of SP physiological effects, indicating that retinal circuits where SP is involved are likely to function in a substantially different manner before the retina becomes involved in the processing of visual stimuli. SP neurotransmission in the immature retina may subserve developmental events, and SP is likely to represent an important developmental factor for the maturation of retinal neurons and circuitries.