Abstract Removal of glutamate from the synaptic cleft is an essential component of the transmission process at glutamatergic synapses. This requirement is fulfilled by transporters that have a high affinity for glutamate and exhibit a unique coupling to Na +, K + and OH - ions. Independently, three groups have succeeded in cloning cDNAs encoding high-affinity Na +-dependent glutamate transporters. These transporters are structurally distinct from previously characterized neurotransmitter transporters and show sequence identity with prokaryotic glutamate and dicarboxylate transporters. In addition, they exhibit significant differences in their structure, function and tissue distribution. This review compares and contrasts these differences, and incorporates into the existing body of knowledge these new breakthroughs.