We used post-embedding immunocytochemistry to determine the cellular localization of glutamate, gamma-amino butyric acid (GABA), glycine, aspartate, glutamine, arginine, and taurine in the normal and degenerating rat retina. Müller's cell function was also evaluated by determining the uptake and degradation characteristics for glutamate. Immunocytochemical localization of amino acids in adult Royal College of Surgeons (RCS) and control rat retinas were similar with respect to cell classes. Differences in the intensity of labelling for glutamate, aspartate, glutamine, and glycine were observed in several classes of neurons, but the most prominent differences were shown by bipolar cells of the adult RCS rat retina. In addition, glutamine labelling within Müller's cells was higher in the RCS rat than the control. These changes may have occurred because of alterations in the glutamate production or degradation pathways. We tested this hypothesis by determining Müller's cells glutamate uptake and degradation characteristics in adult and postnatal day 16 RCS retinas. High affinity uptake of 3[H]-glutamate revealed an accumulation of grains over Müller's cell bodies in the adult RCS retina implying glutamate degradation anomalies. We confirmed anomalies in glutamate metabolism in RCS Müller's cells by showing that exogenously applied glutamate was degraded over a longer time course in postnatal day 16 RCS retinas, compared to control retinas. Differences in arginine immunoreactivity in adult and immature RCS retinas conform to the presumed dysfunction of Müller's cells in these degenerating retinas. The anomalies of amino acid localization, uptake and degradation lead us to conclude that Müller's cells in the RCS retina show abnormal function by postnatal day 16; an earlier time to previously reported anatomical and functional changes in this animal model of retinal degeneration.