Activation of metabotropic glutamate receptors (mGluRs) has multiple effects on the excitability of pyramidal neurons in rat frontal neocortex. Synaptic transmission and intrinsic excitability are both affected. During studies of the effects of quisqualate on synaptic activity, it was observed that quisqualate also induced a slow inward current. Whole-cell patch clamp recordings were obtained from layer II/III pyramidal neurons of neocortical slices in vitro. The bath solution contained APV, CNQX and bicuculline to block ionotropic glutamate and GABA(A) receptors. At a holding potential of -70 mV, quisqualate (2 μM) induced an inward current of about 60 pA. The response was reversible upon washing. This current was associated with an increase in membrane conductance and was still seen in the presence of TTX (0.5 μM). Bath application of the nonselective mGluR antagonist, (R,S)-α-methyl-4-carboxyphenyglycine (MCPG, 200-500 μM) reduced the current by 70%. Other mGluR agonists (ACPD, DHPG, L-CCG-1 and L-AP4) did not induce a significant inward current at the concentrations tested. The current-voltage relation of the quisqualate-induced current was linear with a reversal potential near 0 mV suggesting involvement of nonselective cation channels. The quisqualate-induced inward current was markedly reduced (72%) with 200 μM GDP-β-S in the pipette solution, indicating that it is a postsynaptic phenomenon mediated by a G-protein dependent mechanism. These results suggest that mGluRs can directly increase the postsynaptic excitability of pyramidal cells. Copyright (C) 2000 Elsevier Science B.V.