Uptake of GABA was demonstrated in rat brain synaptic vesicles which were prepared by a new and efficient procedure. The uptake activity co-purified with the synaptic vesicles during the isolation procedure. The purity of the vesicle fraction was rigorously examined by analysis of marker enzymes and marker proteins and also by immunogold electron microscopy using antibodies against p38 (synaptophysin). Contamination by other cellular components was negligible, indicating that GABA uptake by the synaptic vesicle fraction is specific for synaptic vesicles and not due to the presence of other structure possessing GABA uptake or binding activities. GABA uptake was ATP dependent and similar to the uptake of glutamate, which was assayed for a comparison. Both uptake activities were independent of sodium. They were inhibited by the uncoupler carbonyl cyanide 4-(trifluoromethoxy)phenylhydrazone, indicating that the energy for the uptake is provided by an electrochemical proton gradient. This gradient is generated by a proton ATPase of the vacuolar type as suggested by the effects of various ATPase inhibitors on neurotransmitter uptake and proton pumping. Competition experiments revealed that the transporters for GABA and glutamate are selective for the respective neurotransmitters.