The release of the amino acids GABA, taurine, glycine, glutamine and leucine from human neocortex was investigated in vitro by utilizing brain tissue removed during 8 standard temporal lobectomies for epilepsy or tumor. Slices (0.5 mm thick) were cut from each biopsy and randomly placed in three different chambers. After 90 min preincubation, the three sets of slices were incubated for 60 s in wells containing, respectively, (A) regular ACSF (control), (B) ACSF with 50 mM K+ (to depolarize the cell membrane) and (C) ACSF with 50 mM K+, 0 mM Ca2+ and 4 mM Mg2+ (depolarization during blocked synaptic transmission). The content of amino acids in the wells was determined by high-performance liquid chromatography after pre-column derivatization of the amino acids with o-phthalaldehyde. Membrane depolarization (well B) increased the GABA release to 650% (620 pmol/mg) of control (well A, 95 pmol/mg). Blocking synaptic transmission (well C) reduced the evoked release by 50% (360 pmol/mg). The release of glycine, taurine, glutamine and leucine during membrane depolarization was not significantly different from the control values. The data provide evidence for a Ca(2+)-dependent release of GABA, supporting a possible role of this amino acid as a neurotransmitter in human neocortex.