Intracellular recordings were obtained from neocortical brain slices of adult rats maintained in vitro. The effect of metabotropic glutamate receptor activation on spike frequency adaptation in regular spiking layer II and III neurons was determined. Putative metabotropic glutamate receptor agonists and antagonists, as well as inhibitors of intracellular signaling systems, were tested. Activation of metabotropic glutamate receptors by bath applied (1S,3R)-1-aminocyclopentane-1,3-dicarboxylate (1S,3R-ACPD; 50-200 μM) reduced the first interspike interval and increased action potential frequency at all current intensities. This effect was not blocked by ionotropic glutamate receptor antagonists. Under these recording conditions, quisqualate (1-10 μM) similarly reduced spike frequency adaptation. Neither 1P,3S-ACPD, L-2-carboxycyclopropylglycine-I nor the putative presynaptic metabotropic glutamate receptor agonist, L-2-amino-4-phosphonobutyrate, mimicked the effects of 1S,3R-ACPD or quisqualate. Bath application of the putative metabotropic glutamate receptor antagonist, α-methyl-4-carboxyphenylglycine, competitively antagonized the excitatory actions of 1S,3R-ACPD. Another putative antagonist, L-2-amino-3-phosphonopropionate, failed to antagonize the reduction in spike frequency adaptation. Intracellular injection of guanosine-5'-O-(2-thiodiphosphate), a non-hydrolysable analog of GTP, inhibited the postsynaptic metabotropic glutamate receptor-mediated effects. However, the depression of synaptic transmission by 1S,3R-ACPD was not antagonized by this compound. The decrease in spike frequency adaptation by 1S,3R-ACPD was not prevented by prior exposure to the non-specific protein kinase inhibitors H-7 or H-8 (10 μM), the protein kinase A inhibitor H-89 (0.25 μM) or the protein kinase C inhibitor staurosporine (0.10 μM). These data suggest that the metabotropic glutamate receptor-mediated reduction in spike adaptation requires the activation of specific G-protein-coupled metabotropic glutamate receptor subtypes located on postsynaptic sites. The increase in neuronal excitability observed in the adult neocortex may be mediated either by an unidentified G-protein-coupled second messenger or via a membrane-delimited G-protein action.