Termination of GABA signals within the retina occurs through high-affinity reuptake of the released neurotransmitter by GABA transporters (GATs) present in neurons and glia surrounding the release site. In the present work, we have cloned a novel GAT from the retina of the skate (Raja erinacea). The clone codes for a 622 amino acid protein whose sequence has highest similarity to the GABA/beta-alanine transporter of the electric ray (Torpedo marmorata) (88% identity) and the GAT-3 isolated from rat brain (75% identity). The protein was expressed in Xenopus oocytes and characterized using the two-electrode voltage-clamp technique. Application of GABA induced a dose-dependent inward current, with 8 muM GABA producing a half-maximal response. The current required the presence of extracellular sodium and was unaffected by the GABA receptor blocker picrotoxin or the GAT-1 specific antagonist NO-711. The high homology between the cloned skate GABA transporter and the GAT-3 equivalents of other species, coupled with the strikingly similar pharmacological profile to GAT-3s of other species, lead us to conclude that we had cloned the GAT-3 homologue for the skate. Polyclonal antibodies specific to GAT-3 and the previously cloned skate GAT-1 transporter were used to examine the distribution of GAT-3 and GAT-1 immunoreactivity in the retina and in isolated cells of the skate. Antibodies for both transporters showed labeling in the outer and inner plexiform layers, and staining extended from the outer to inner limiting membranes.