Neuroactive substances such as serotonin and other monoamines have been suggested to be involved in the transmission of gustatory signals from taste bud cells to afferent fibers. Lampreys are the earliest vertebrates that possess taste buds, although these differ in structure from taste buds in jawed vertebrates, and their neurochemistry remains unknown. We used immunofluorescence methods with antibodies raised against serotonin, tyrosine hydroxylase (TH), γ-aminobutyric acid (GABA), glutamate, calcitonin gene-related peptide (CGRP), neuropeptide Y (NPY), calretinin, and acetylated α-tubulin to characterize the neurochemistry and innervation of taste buds in the sea lamprey, Petromyzon marinus L. For localization of proliferative cells in taste buds we used bromodeoxyuridine labeling and proliferating cell nuclear antigen immunohistochemistry. Results with both markers indicate that proliferating cells are restricted to a few basal cells and that almost all cells in taste buds are nonproliferating. A large number of serotonin-, calretinin-, and CGRP-immunoreactive bi-ciliated cells were revealed in lamprey taste buds. This suggests that serotonin participates in the transmission of gustatory signals and indicates that this substance appeared early on in vertebrate evolution. The basal surface of the bi-ciliated taste bud cells was contacted by tubulin-immunoreactive fibers. Some of the fibers surrounding the taste bud were calretinin immunoreactive. Lamprey taste bud cells or afferent fibers did not exhibit TH, GABA, glutamate, or NPY immunoreactivity, which suggests that expression of these substances evolved in taste buds of some gnathostomes lines after the separation of gnathostomes and lampreys. J. Comp. Neurol. 511:438–453, 2008. © 2008 Wiley-Liss, Inc.