1. Taste responses adapt to a constant chemical stimulus. The present study describes a new ionic conductance in taste cells--a Ca(2+)-dependent anion conductance that may explain taste adaptation. 2. Patch-clamp recordings were made on isolated Necturus taste cells or on taste cells in lingual slices. When Na+ and K+ currents were eliminated with tetrodotoxin (TTX) and tetraethyl-ammonium (TEA) in the bath and replacing K+ with N-methyl-D-glucamine (NMDG+) in the pipette, Ca2+ currents were followed by prolonged outward currents. Outward current was abolished when Ca2+ was substituted with Ba2+ or when Cl- was replaced with large organic anions (methanesulfonate, isethionate, or ascorbate). 3. The outward, Ca-dependent current was reduced by certain agents that block Cl- conductances in other tissues, namely 4-acet-amido-4-isothiocyanostilbene-2,2-disulfonic acid (SITS) and 4,4-diisothiocyanostilbene-2,2-disulfonic acid (DIDS). However, other Cl- channel blockers--9-AC, furosemide and an antibody to Cl channels-had little or no specific effect on the Ca-dependent outward current in Necturus taste cells. 4. We postulate that the biological action of this Ca-dependent anion conductance in situ is to terminate depolarizing receptor potentials, even during maintained chemostimulation, thereby playing an important role in chemosensory adaptation and modulation of impulse discharge patterns in taste buds.