Foreign genes can be transferred into taste cells via adenoviral vectors. The present study was undertaken to characterize the subpopulation of taste cells that are susceptible to adenovirus infection and to determine whether another viral vector, derived from herpes simplex 1 (HSV-1), infects the same subpopulation of taste cells. Using an adenovirus containing the gene for enhanced green fluorescent protein (EGFP) under the control of the human cytomegalovirus (CMV) immediate early promoter, we found that EGFP was present in blood group antigen H immunoreactive (ir) taste cells, but not in gustducin-ir or PGP 9.5-ir cells. Infection of taste buds with an HSV-1 vector containing EGFP also resulted in a subpopulation of EGFP-positive taste cells. However, both gustducin-ir and PGP 9.5-ir taste cells expressed the marker protein. In conclusion, this study shows that both adenoviral and HSV-1 vectors can be used to transfer foreign genes into the cells of isolated rat taste buds and that different viruses can be used to target specific subpopulations of taste cells.