Intersubband (lSB) optical absorption in different nitride-based heterostructures grown by metal-organic chemical vapour deposition (MOCVD) is reported. The role of indium in AlInN/GaN multi-quantum wells (MQWs) is investigated. At high concentration (15%) AlInN is quasi lattice-matched to GaN and no cracks appear in the structure. At very low indium concentration (similar to 2%) the material quality is improved without decreasing the ISB transition wavelength with respect to the case of indium-free structures. Different mechanisms of strain relaxation in pure and 2% indium-doped AlN/GaN MQW structures are also investigated. ISB transition wavelengths of 2 urn for AlN/GaN MQWs, and 3 mu n for AlInN/GaN MQWs with 15% of In are achieved. (c) 2007 WILEY-VCH Verlag GmbH & Co. KGaA, Weinheim.