Presynaptic inhibition is one of the major control mechanisms in the CNS. Previously we reported that adenosine A1 receptors mediate presynaptic inhibition at the retinotectal synapse of goldfish. Here we extend these findings to metabotropic glutamate receptors (mGluRs) and report that presynaptic inhibition produced by both A1 adenosine receptors and group II mGluRs is due to G(i) protein coupling to inhibition of N-type calcium channels in the retinal ganglion cells. Adenosine (100 microM) and an A1 (but not A2) receptor agonist reduced calcium current (I(Ca2+)) by 16-19% in cultured retinal ganglion cells, consistent with their inhibition of retinotectal synaptic transmission (-30% amplitude of field potentials). The general metabotropic glutamate receptor (mGluR) agonist 1S,3R-1-amino-cyclopentane-1,3-dicarboxylic acid (1S,3R-ACPD, 50 microM) and the selective group II mGluR receptor agonist (2S, 2'R,3'R)-2-(2',3'-dicarboxy-cyclopropyl)glycine (DCG-IV, 300 nM) inhibited both synaptic transmission and I(Ca2+), whereas the group III mGluR agonist L-2-amino-4-phosphono-butyrate (L-AP4) inhibited neither synaptic transmission nor I(Ca2+). When the N-type calcium channels were blocked with omega-conotoxin GVIA, both adenosine and DCG-IV had much smaller percentage effects on the residual 20% of I(Ca2+), suggesting effects mainly on the N-type calcium channels. The inhibitory effects of A1 adenosine receptors and mGluRs were both blocked by pertussis toxin, indicating that they are mediated by either G(i) or G(o). They were also inhibited by activation of protein kinase C (PKC), which is known to phosphorylate and inhibit G(i). Finally, when applied sequentially, inhibition by adenosine and DCG-IV were not additive but occluded each other. Together these results suggest that adenosine A1 receptors and group II mGluRs mediate presynaptic inhibition of retinotectal synaptic transmission by sharing a pertussis toxin (PTX)-sensitive, PKC-regulated G(i) protein coupled to N-type calcium channels.