Presynaptic terminal formation is a complex process that requires assembly of proteins responsible for synaptic transmission at sites of axo-dendritic contact. Accumulation of presynaptic proteins at developing terminals is facilitated by glutamate receptor activation. Glutamate is loaded into synaptic vesicles for release via the vesicular glutamate transporters VGLUT1 and VGLUT2. During postnatal development there is a switch from predominantly VGLUT2 expression to high VGLUT1 and low VGLUT2, raising the question of whether the developmental increase in VGLUT1 is important for presynaptic development. Here, we addressed this question using confocal microscopy and quantitative immunocytochemistry in primary cultures of rat neocortical neurons. First, in order to understand the extent to which the developmental switch from VGLUT2 to VGLUT1 occurs through an increase in VGLUT1 at individual presynaptic terminals or through addition of VGLUT1-positive presynaptic terminals, we examined the spatio-temporal dynamics of VGLUT1 and VGLUT2 expression. Between 5 and 12 days in culture, the percentage of presynaptic terminals that expressed VGLUT1 increased during synapse formation, as did expression of VGLUT1 at individual terminals. A subset of VGLUT1-positive terminals also expressed VGLUT2, which decreased at these terminals. At individual terminals, the increase in VGLUT1 correlated with greater accumulation of other synaptic vesicle proteins, such as synapsin and synaptophysin. When the developmental increase in VGLUT1 was prevented using VGLUT1-shRNA, the density of presynaptic terminals and accumulation of synapsin and synaptophysin at terminals were decreased. Since VGLUT1 knock-down was limited to a small number of neurons, the observed effects were cell-autonomous and independent of changes in overall network activity. These results demonstrate that up-regulation of VGLUT1 is important for development of presynaptic terminals in the cortex.