gamma-Aminobutyric acid (GABA) neurotransmission is widespread in vertebrate and invertebrate nervous systems. Here we use a genetic approach to identify molecules specific to GABA function. On the basis of the known in vivo roles of GABAergic neurons in controlling behaviour of the nematode Caenorhabditis elegans, we identified mutants defective in GABA-mediated behaviours. Five genes are necessary either for GABAergic neuronal differentiation or for pre- or postsynaptic GABAergic function. The gene unc-30 is required for the differentiation of a specific type of GABAergic neuron, the type-D inhibitory motor neuron. The gene unc-25 is necessary for GABA expression and probably encodes the GABA biosynthetic enzyme glutamic acid decarboxylase. The genes unc-46 and unc-47 seem to be required for normal GABA release. Finally, the gene unc-49 is apparently necessary postsynaptically for the inhibitory effect of GABA on the body muscles and might encode a protein needed for the function of a GABAA-like receptor. Some of these genes are likely to encode previously unidentified proteins required for GABA function.