The concentration and occupancy of the thyroid hormone receptor have been measured in rat brain nuclear extracts at the end of the fetal period and during the postnatal period. Receptor occupancy attained maximal values at postnatal day 15 (52% of total receptor binding sites occupied by T3) and correlated with plasma and cytosol total and free T3. The values for these parameters showed greater differences throughout development than did receptor occupancy. From gestational day 21 to postnatal day 15, total T3 increased in plasma from 0.18 to 1 nmol/l and in cytosol from 1 to 7.5 pmol/l. Free T3 increased in plasma from 1.2 to 6 pmol/l and in cytosol from 8 to 59 pmol/l. Nuclear free T3, calculated on the basis of receptor occupancy, and Kd increased in parallel, from 39.8 to 107 pmol/l at the same ages. Values for nuclear free T3 were between 2 and 5 times those in cytosol and between 10 and 40 times those in plasma, suggesting the presence of a small free T3 gradient from plasma to the nucleus. All of the above changes take place during the critical period of oligodendrocyte differentiation and the start of myelin gene expression, suggesting that thyroid hormone influences these important events of brain maturation.