The polyamines spermine and spermidine are present in neural tissue, but their functions there are not well understood. Recent work suggests that the NMDA subtype of glutamate receptors, other glutamate receptor subtypes, and certain K(+)-channels, are neural targets for polyamines. To better understand the neuron-specific roles of polyamines, we have developed antibodies that interact with spermine and spermidine in aldehyde-fixed tissue and used these antibodies in immunocytochemical studies to determine the cellular localization of these polyamines in the tiger salamander retina. The affinity-purified, polyclonal antibodies were highly specific for spermine and spermidine, exhibiting < 1% cross reactivity with putrescine, and virtually no cross-reactivity with GABA, arginine, lysine, or glutaraldehyde. Polyamine labeling was most abundant in cells in the inner half of the inner nuclear layer and in the ganglion cell layer. Some cells in the outer half of the inner nuclear layer are labeled, and there was some labeling in both synaptic layers. Double-labeling experiments indicated (1) all GABAergic amacrine cells were polyamine-positive; and (2) all ganglion cells (identified by back-filling after microinjections of rhodamine in the optic nerve) were polyamine-positive. These results are consistent with a role for polyamines as modulators of NMDA receptor function and channel function in the inner retina.