Dopamine can change the membrane potential, regulate cyclic nucleotides, and modulate transmitter release in central neurons. In the olfactory bulb (OB), the dopamine synthetic enzyme, tyrosine hydroxylase, is largely confined to neurons in the glomerular layer. After demonstrating dopamine D2 receptors in the glomerular and olfactory nerve (ON) layers, Nickell et al. [W.T. Nickell, A.B. Norman, L.M. Wyatt, M.T. Shipley, Olfactory bulb DA receptors may be located on terminals of the olfactory nerve, NeuroReport, 2 (1991) 9-12.] proposed that these receptors may reduce transmitter release due to their localization to ON presynaptic boutons. We have previously demonstrated that olfactory receptor neurons use glutamate to excite OB neurons through activation of glutamate receptors subtypes, NMDA and AMPA/kainate [D.A. Berkowicz, P.Q. Trombley, G.M. Shepherd, Evidence for glutamate as the olfactory receptor cell neurotransmitter. J. Neurophysiol., 71 (1994) 2557-2561]. Here, we used a hemisected turtle OB preparation and patch-clamp recording techniques to assess dopamine modulation of the ON/OB neuron synapse. We found that dopamine (10-300 microM) reversibly decreased the excitatory postsynaptic response to ON stimulation. This effect could be overcome by recruiting additional nerve fibers by increasing the intensity of ON stimulation. Quinpirole (10 microM), a D2 agonist, mimicked the effects of dopamine. Conversely, sulpiride (300 microM), a D2 antagonist, prevented the inhibitory effects of dopamine on synaptic transmission. Whereas dopamine appeared to equally affect the NMDA and AMPA/kainate receptor-mediated components of the synaptically evoked response, it had no direct effect on membrane currents evoked by exogenous glutamate, kainate or NMDA applied to cultured OB neurons. Our data, therefore, support the notion that dopamine modulates synaptic transmission between olfactory receptor neurons and OB neurons via a presynaptic mechanism involving D2 receptor activation. Our abstract (Berkowicz et al. (1994) Neuroscience Abs. 20:328) is the first report of these results.