Glutamate is the major excitatory neurotransmitter in the brain and plays a unique role in a variety of central nervous system (CNS) functions. The discovery of the metabotropic receptors (mGluRs), a family of G-protein coupled receptors than can be activated by glutamate, has led to an impressive number of studies in recent years aimed at understanding their biochemical, physiological and pharmacological characteristics. The eight mGluRs now known are divided into three groups according to their sequence homology, signal transduction mechanisms, and agonist selectivity. Group I mGluRs include mGluR1 and mGluR5, which are linked to the activation of phospholipase C; Groups II and III include all others and are negatively coupled to adenylyl cyclases. The availability in recent years of agents selective for Group I mGluRs has made possible the study of the physiological roles of these receptors in the CNS. In addition to mediating glutamatergic neurotransmission, Group I mGluRs can modulate other neurotransmitter receptors, including GABA and the ionotropic glutamate receptors. Group I mGluRs are involved in many CNS functions and may participate in a variety of disorders such as pain, epilepsy, ischemia, and chronic neurodegenerative diseases. This class of receptor may provide important pharmacological therapeutic targets and elucidating its functions will be relevant to develop new treatments for neurological and psychiatric disorders in which glutamatergic neurotransmission is abnormally regulated. In this review anatomical, physiological and pharmacological results are presented with a special emphasis on the role of Group I mGluRs in functional and pathological processes.