The ATP-dependent uptake of glutamate into synaptic vesicles isolated form mammalian brains is well characterized. Glutamate uptake requires an electrochemical proton gradient, is specific for glutamate over other amino acids, and is stimulated by chloride. To determine whether these characteristics are fundamental to the vesicular uptake system, vesicles were isolated from the brain and central nervous ganglia of several vertebrate and invertebrate species, which included goldfish, frogs, turtles, pigeons, rats, Drosophila, and crayfish, and these vesicles were assayed for glutamate uptake activity. ATP-dependent glutamate was found in all of the vertebrate species tested, but was not detected in Drosophila or crayfish vesicles. The nature of the vesicular uptake of glutamate was similar among all the vertebrates: the specificity for glutamate remained high, transport was energized by a vacuolar (V)-type ATPase, 2–4 mM chloride stimulated uptake three- to sixfold, and Km for glutamate was between 0.5 and 2 mM. While these major characteristics of the uptake system remained conserved among the vertebrates tested, minor differences were seen in glutamate specificity, the steady-state level of glutamate obtained in the vesicles, and Vmax of the glutamate uptake systems. These results indicate that the synaptic vesicle glutamate uptake system is present throughout the vertebrate class, and that while minor changes in the transport system have occurred, its major functional characteristics, such as stimulation by chloride and strict substrate specificity, have been conserved for over 350–400 million years.