GABA transaminase (GABA-T) catalyses the conversion of GABA to succinate semialdehyde (SSA) in the GABA shunt pathway. The GABA-T from Saccharomyces cerevisiae (ScGABA-TKG) is an α-ketoglutarate-dependent enzyme encoded by the UGA1 gene, while higher plant GABA-T is a pyruvate/glyoxylate-dependent enzyme encoded by POP2 in Arabidopsis thaliana (AtGABA-T). The GABA-T from A. thaliana is localized in mitochondria and mediated by an 18-amino acid N-terminal mitochondrial targeting peptide predicated by both web-based utilities TargetP 1.1 and PSORT. Yeast UGA1 appears to lack a mitochondrial targeting peptide and is localized in the cytosol. To verify this bioinformatic analysis and examine the significance of ScGABA-TKG and AtGABA-T compartmentation and substrate specificity on physiological function, expression vectors were constructed to modify both ScGABA-TKG and AtGABA-T, so that they express in yeast mitochondria and cytosol. Physiological function was evaluated by complementing yeast ScGABA-TKG deletion mutant Δuga1 with AtGABA-T or ScGABA-TKG targeted to the cytosol or mitochondria for the phenotypes of GABA growth defect, thermosensitivity and heat-induced production of reactive oxygen species (ROS). This study demonstrates that AtGABA-T is functionally interchangeable with ScGABA-TKG for GABA growth, thermotolerance and limiting production of ROS, regardless of location in mitochondria or cytosol of yeast cells, but AtGABA-T is about half as efficient in doing so as ScGABA-TKG. These results are consistent with the hypothesis that pyruvate/glyoxylate-limited production of NADPH mediates the effect of the GABA shunt in moderating heat stress in Saccharomyces. Copyright © 2013 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.