Amiloride at < or = 1 microM may block epithelial Na+ channels without affecting other cellular mechanisms, and attenuates gustatory responses to lingual NaCl from the chorda tympani nerves (CT) of gerbil, hamster, rhesus monkey, and several strains of laboratory rat and mouse, and from glossopharyngeally innervated frog taste-receptor cells; at 5 microM to 50 microM, also from Wistar rat and mongrel dog CT. Affected units responded more to NaCl than to KCl. Suppression of CT responses to KCl, HCl, NH4Cl, or saccharides also occurred in some mammals, but amiloride did not elicit responses. Taste-dependent behaviors towards NaCl or KCl were altered. DBA and 129/J laboratory mice, and mudpuppy, were unaffected by amiloride. In humans, 10 microM amiloride both produced taste reports and reduced total intensity of NaCl and LiCl by 15-20%. NaCl and LiCl sourness, and KCl and QHCl bitterness declined, but saltiness generally did not change. Effects on sweetness were inconsistent. Amiloride-sensitive gustatory mechanisms were prominent in some mammals, were not necessary for responses to NaCl, and were of minor importance for human taste.