The distribution of γ-aminobutyric acid (GABA) immunoreactivity in the olfactory bulbs of the adult sea lamprey was studied using an antibody against this transmitter. Five types of GABA-immunoreactive (GABAir) cells were observed. Medium-sized GABAir cells (periglomerular cells) were located around the olfactory glomeruli and occasionally within them. In the inner cellular layer of the bulbs and around the olfactory ventricles, two types of GABAir perikarya were present: some medium-sized GABAir cells and numerous small GABAir cells (granules). In the walls of the olfactory ventricle, some medium-sized GABAir cells of cerebrospinal fluid-contacting type were observed. At the entrance of the olfactory nerves, medium-sized GABAir bipolar cells were present, mostly located between the olfactory nerve and the glomerular layer or close to the meninges, but some in the intracranial portion of the olfactory nerve. GABAir processes were present in all layers of the olfactory bulb. In addition there were also GABAir cells in the dorsal interbulbar commissure. The distribution of GABA observed in the olfactory system of lampreys indicates that this transmitter plays a major role in the modulation of bulbar circuits. The presence of granular and periglomerular cells in lampreys indicates that these two intrinsic GABAergic neurons of the olfactory bulbs are shared by most vertebrates, although lampreys have additional GABAir cell types. © 2001 Elsevier Science B.V.