To permit a molecular characterization of neurotransmitter transporter proteins, we have studied uptake activities induced in Xenopus laevis oocytes after injection of adult rat forebrain, cerebellum, brainstem, and spinal cord poly(A)+ RNA. L-Glutamate uptake could be observed as early as 24 hr after injection, was linearly related to the quantity of mRNA injected, and could be induced after injection of as little as 1 ng of cerebellar mRNA. Transport of radiolabeled L-glutamate, gamma-aminobutyric acid, glycine, dopamine, serotonin, and choline could be measured in single microinjected oocytes with a regional profile consistent with the anatomical distribution of particular neurotransmitter synthesizing soma. Forebrain L-glutamate and dopamine uptake, as well as cerebellar L-glutamate transport, were found to be Na+-dependent. Cerebellar mRNA-induced L-glutamate transport was both time and temperature-dependent, was saturable by substrate, suggesting a single activity with an apparent transport Km of 14.2 microM and a Vmax of 15.2 pmol/hr per oocyte, and was sensitive to inhibitors of brain L-glutamate transport. Thus, the oocyte L-glutamate transport induced by injection of adult rat cerebellar mRNA appears essentially identical to the high-affinity, Na+-dependent L-glutamate uptake found in brain slices and nerve terminals. Experiments with size-fractionated cerebellar mRNA reveal single, comigrating peaks for cerebellar L-glutamate and gamma-aminobutyric acid transport, with peak activity obtained in fractions of approximately 2.7 kilobases, suggesting the presence of single or similarly sized mRNAs encoding each of these activities.