The neuropeptide somatostatin has been suggested to play an important role during neuronal development in addition to its established modulatory impact on neuroendocrine, motor and cognitive functions in adults. Although six somatostatin G protein-coupled receptors have been discovered, little is known about their distribution and function in the developing mammalian brain. In this study, we have first characterized the developmental expression of the somatostatin receptor sst2A, the subtype found most prominently in the adult rat and human nervous system. In the rat, the sst2A receptor expression appears as early as E12 and is restricted to post-mitotic neuronal populations leaving the ventricular zone. From E12 on, migrating neuronal populations immunopositive for the receptor were observed in numerous developing regions including the cerebral cortex, hippocampus and ganglionic eminences. Intense but transient immunoreactive signals were detected in the deep part of the external granular layer of the cerebellum, the rostral migratory stream and in tyrosine hydroxylase- and serotonin- positive neurons and axons. Activation of the sst2A receptor in vitro in rat cerebellar microexplants and primary hippocampal neurons revealed stimulatory effects on neuronal migration and axonal growth, respectively. In the human cortex, receptor immunoreactivity was located in the preplate at early development stages (8 gestational weeks) and was enriched to the outer part of the germinal zone at later stages. In the cerebellum, the deep part of the external granular layer was strongly immunoreactive at 19 gestational weeks, similar to the finding in rodents. In addition, migrating granule cells in the internal granular layer were also receptor-positive. Together, theses results strongly suggest that the somatostatin sst2A receptor participates in the development and maturation of specific neuronal populations during rat and human brain ontogenesis.