The properties of postsynaptic potentials evoked by stimulation of cortical, retinal and GABAergic thalamic afferents were examined in vitro in thalamocortical neurons of the guinea-pig dorsal lateral geniculate nucleus. Brief trains of stimulation (2-10 stimuli) delivered to corticothalamic fibers led to a frequency-dependent increase in excitatory postsynaptic potential amplitude associated with an increase in activation of both N-methyl-D-aspartate and non-N-methyl-D-aspartate glutamate receptors. In addition, repetitive stimulation of corticothalamic fibers also gave rise to a slow excitatory postsynaptic potential that was blocked by local application of the glutamate metabotropic receptor antagonist alpha-methyl-4-carboxyphenylglycine. In contrast, repetitive stimulation of optic tract fibers resulted in monosynaptic excitatory postsynaptic potentials that did not potentiate and were not followed by the generation of a slow excitatory postsynaptic potential. Repetitive activation of the optic radiation also evoked both GABA(A) and GABA(B) receptor-mediated inhibitory postsynaptic potentials. These inhibitory postsynaptic potentials exhibited frequency-dependent depression during repetitive activation. The presence of frequency-dependent facilitation of corticothalamic excitatory postsynaptic potentials and frequency-dependent decrement of inhibitory postsynaptic potentials, as well as the ability of corticothalamic fibers to activate glutamate metabotropic receptors, suggests that sustained activation of corticothalamic afferents in vivo may result in postsynaptic responses in thalamocortical cells that are initially dominated by GABAergic inhibitory postsynaptic potentials followed by prominent monosynaptic excitatory postsynaptic potentials as well as a slow depolarization of the membrane potential.Therefore, the corticothalamic system may inhibit or enhance the excitability and responsiveness of thalamocortical neurons, based both on the spatial and temporal features of thalamocortical interactions.