P2X receptors have been suggested to play a role in the transduction of sensory signals such as pain and sound. In the present study, polyclonal antibodies against P2X1 to P2X6 receptors were used to localize P2X receptors in circumvallate and fungiform papillae of rats. Nerve fibres innervating the taste buds stained intensely with P2X3 receptor antibodies. P2X3 receptor-positive nerves were observed in the intra- and subgemmal regions. The nerve fibres were also stained with P2X2 receptor antibodies, but the intensity was much lower. The distribution of P2X2 receptor immunoreactivity overlaps with that of P2X3. These results suggest that ATP might be a neurotransmitter in taste reception cells in the taste buds, where it transducts the taste signals to the afferent taste nerves by activating P2X receptors at the synapses. This is the first experiment indicating such a role for ATP, although supplementary functional studies are required.