Intracellular recordings were made from thalamocortical neurons in slices of rat dorsal lateral geniculate nucleus in vitro, where ionotropic glutamate receptors and ionotropic and metabotropic GABA receptors had been blocked. The activation of specific metabotropic glutamate receptors by exogenous agonists and by the electrical stimulation of the corticothalamic pathway was then assessed using selective antagonists. The specific group I agonist (S)-3,5-dihydoxyphenylglycine and the non-selective agonist (1S,3R)-1-aminocyclo-pentane-1,3-dicarboxylic acid both caused a concentration-dependent depolarization of membrane potential. These effects were associated with an increase in the apparent input resistance, and a more robust expression of both the depolarizing sag of the voltage response and the low-threshold Ca2+ potential and an increase in thalamocortical neuron excitability. However, group I agonists selective for the mGlu5 receptor and agonists selective for group II and III receptors did not have these effects. Consequently, these data suggested that these actions were mediated specifically by the group I mGlu1 receptor.The activation of cortical fibres, with trains of 50 stimuli at 50Hz, resulted in a two-component depolarizing response. The first part of this synaptic response and the agonist-induced depolarization of membrane potential were depressed by the novel group I receptor antagonists LY367366 and LY367385, which are active at mGlu1 receptors. However, they were not blocked by 6-methyl-2-(phenylethyl)-pyridine, a highly selective mGlu5 receptor antagonist.Thus, the membrane potential depolarization of thalamocortical neurons caused either by exogenous agonists or by the stimulation of cortical fibres resulted from the specific activation of mGlu1 but not mGlu5 receptors. This result is consistent with the location of this receptor type on the distal dendrites of thalamocortical neurons in the dorsal lateral geniculate nucleus of the thalamus. Copyright (C) 2000 IBRO.