GABAergic interneurons in the rat frontal cortex were subdivided on the basis of immunoreactivity for calcium binding proteins, neuropeptides and nitric oxide synthase, using double immunofluorescence and mirror image immunohistochemical methods. The results indicate that in this region of the neocortex there are at least three distinct subpopulations of local circuit neurons. The first subgroup consists of parvalbumin-immunoreactive cells. Those do not contain neuropeptide, calretinin or nitric oxide synthase immunoreactivity. A substantial number of parvalbumin-immunoreactive cells in layer II/III were also immunoreactive for calbindin D28k. The second subgroup consists of cells immunoreactive for calretinin. Most were usually immunoreactive for vasoactive intestinal polypeptide as well, but a few cells in layer II/III were immunoreactive for one or the other only. Calretinin-immunoreactive cells do not colocalize parvalbumin, somatostatin or nitric oxide synthase, and only a few colocalize calbindin D28k. The third subgroup consists of cells most of which contain somatostatin, and is entirely separate from the parvalbumin- and calretinin-immunoreactive populations. There was substantial colocalization of somatostatin and calbindin D28k and of somatostatin and neuropeptide Y. Some somatostatin-immunoreactive cells showed nitric oxide synthase immunoreactivity. All of the populations of immunoreactive cells examined in the present study also showed GABA immunoreactivity. About 10% of calbindin D28k-immunoreactive cells and all of those strongly stained for calbindin D28k in layer II/III showed GABA immunoreactivity. Most calbindin D28k-positive cells in deep layers also showed GABA immunoreactivity. These results support that almost all calbindin D28k-immunoreactive non-pyramidal cells are probably GABAergic.