In less than a decade our knowledge of the GABA(C) receptor, a new type of Cl(-)-permeable ionotropic GABA receptor, has greatly increased based on studies of both native and recombinant receptors. Careful comparison of properties of native and recombinant receptors has provided compelling evidence that GABA receptor rho-subunits are the major molecular components of GABA(C) receptors. Three distinct rho-subunits from various species have been cloned and the pattern of their expression in the retina, as well as in various brain regions, has been established. The pharmacological profile of GABA(C) receptors has been refined and more specific drugs have been developed. Molecular determinants that underlie functional properties of the receptors have been assigned to specific amino acid residues in rho-subunits. This information has helped determine the subunit composition of native receptors, as well as the molecular basis underlying subtle variations among GABA(C) receptors in different species. Finally, GABA(C) receptors play a unique functional role in retinal signal processing via three mechanisms: (1) slow activation; (2) segregation from other inhibitory receptors; and (3) contribution to multi-neuronal pathways.