Isolated Necturus taste receptor cells were studied by giga-seal whole-cell recording and electron microscopy to correlate electrophysiological properties with taste cell structural features. Dark (type I) cells were identified by the presence of dense granular packets in the supranuclear and apical regions of the cytoplasm. In response to a series of depolarizing voltage commands from a holding potential of -80 mV, these cells exhibited a transient, TTX-sensitive inward Na+ current, a sustained outward K+ current, and a slowly inactivating inward Ca++ current. Light (type II) cells were identified by a lack of granular packets and by an abundance of smooth endoplasmic reticulum distributed throughout the cell. In addition, isolated light cells had clear vesicular inclusions in the cytoplasm and blebs on the plasma membrane. Light cells were divided into two functional populations based upon electrophysiological criteria: cells with inward and outward currents, and cells with outward currents only. Light cells with inward and outward currents had voltage-activated Na+, K+, and Ca++ currents with properties similar to those of dark cells. In contrast, the second group of light cells had only voltage-activated outward K+ currents in response to depolarizing voltage commands. These data suggest that dark cells and light cells with inward and outward currents are capable of generating action potentials and releasing neurotransmitters onto gustatory afferent neurons in response to taste stimulation. In contrast, light cells with outward currents only likely serve a different function in the taste bud.