Nerve fibers present in the basal plexus of the vallate papilla of the rat tongue were analyzed using cytochemical, immunocytochemical and ultrastructural methods to investigate whether the subgemmal plexus is subdivided into neurochemical compartments and to provide a clear definition of the reciprocal spatial relationships between nitrergic, peptidergic and acetylesterase positive structures. Several neuronal fibers were detected under the chemoreceptorial epithelium. Some of these fibers were in contact with the taste buds and in some cases neuronal projections were also present between the buds or inside them; some others fibers were present below this layer but in a more peripheral area. Antibodies against CGRP, SP and CCK stained fibers just below the chemoreceptorial epithelium, whereas fibers more distally located were immunolabeled by anti VIP, NOS-1 and NF-200 antibodies. Some double staining experiments were conducted using confocal microscopy. Other sections were processed cytochemically for AChE and subsequently for NADPH-d in colocalization experiments. All the data obtained using these techniques confirmed the results obtained with single immunostaining, as did the ultrastructural results. In conclusion, the present work demonstrates that the subgemmal plexus is a bilayered structure, suggesting that the complex relationship between the two layers plays a pivotal role in taste and in the control of processes ancillary to taste, such as control of vascular or secretory mechanisms.