The neuropeptide vasoactive intestinal peptide was localized to taste buds of the posterior tongue regions of hamsters and rats by immunocytochemical techniques. Tissue sections, taken from foliate and circumvallate papillae, generally revealed taste buds in which all cells were immunoreactive; however, occasionally some taste buds were found to contain highly reactive individual cells adjacent to non-reactive cells. Additionally, some non-reactive taste buds were observed. Taste buds that displayed vasoactive intestinal peptide-like immunoreactivity usually had a tendency for much darker staining at the apical ends of the cells than the basal ends, suggesting a polar cytoplasmic distribution of the peptide. The multi-functional roles of vasoactive intestinal peptide in other physiological systems combined with both its cytoplasmic localization in taste cells and the known histochemistry/ultrastructure of taste cells raises interesting speculations of this peptide's function in gustation that include secretion, stimulation of a second messenger system, and neuromodulation.