Biochemical studies have suggested that certain synaptic proteins associate with lipid rafts to perform key functions within the synapse. However, variability in biochemical preparations raises questions as to which synaptic proteins actually associate with lipid rafts. In the present study, we use both electron microscopy and biochemistry to investigate AMPA (alpha-amino-3-hydroxy-5-methylisoxazole-4-propionic acid) receptor localization in synaptic membrane subfractions prepared in two different ways, by Triton X-100 detergent treatment or without detergent by sonication at high pH. Immunogold electron microscopy shows that a detergent-resistant synaptosomal membrane subfraction consists of empty vesicles 0.1-1.0 microm in diameter. A subpopulation of these vesicles labelled for glycosphingolipid GM1 ganglioside, a marker of lipid rafts, and 46% of the labelled vesicles also labelled for the AMPA receptor subunit GluR2. This co-segregation into specific vesicles does not depend on effects of detergent because a similar distribution of label was found in vesicles isolated without the use of detergent. Our results suggest that AMPA receptors localize within specific regions of synaptic membranes rich in GM1 ganglioside.