Gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) is known to be a candidate for the neurotransmitter involved in the sense of taste. We hereby studied GABA and its termination system, GABA transporters, in rat taste buds by immunocytochemical approaches. Immunoblot analysis of three GABA transporter subtypes (GAT1, GAT2 and GAT3) revealed that the immunoreactive bands of GAT2 and GAT3, but not GAT1, were detected in the tongue. GAT3-immunoreactive band was recognized only in the circumvallate papilla containing a large number of taste buds while GAT2-immunoreactive bands were seen in all areas of the tongue. GAT2 immunoreactivity appeared to be specifically in the nerve fibers beneath the lingual epithelium. Both GAT3 and GABA immunoreactivities were detected only in taste buds. A few GAT3-immunoreactive cells were found in a cross-section of each taste bud but most GAT3-immunoreactive cells were localized in the margin of the taste bud. GAT3 was predominantly concentrated in the distal portion of the GAT3-immunoreactive cells. In contrast, GABA-immunoreactive cells were seen more frequently within each taste bud and the immunoreactivity was distributed throughout the perikarya of the cells. These results suggest that the GABA-uptake system is present in the taste buds and the GABAergic neurotransmission involved in the sensation of taste is terminated by the uptake of GABA into certain taste cells via GAT3.