We have previously reported that the synthetic cannabinoid receptor agonist WIN55,212-2 causes a selective reduction in paired-pulse depression of population spikes in the CA1 region of the rat hippocampal slice. This effect is consistent with the observation that activation of cannabinoid receptors inhibits GABA release in the hippocampus. We have now investigated the actions of the putative endogenous cannabinoids 2-arachidonoyl-glycerol (2-AG) and anandamide in this system. 2-AG mimicked the effect of WIN55,212-2 by selectively reducing paired-pulse depression at concentrations of 1-30 microM. In contrast, anandamide caused a selective increase in paired-pulse depression at concentrations of 1-30 microM. This effect was mimicked by the vanilloid receptor agonists capsaicin and resiniferatoxin, and blocked by the vanilloid receptor antagonist capsazepine, but not by the cannabinoid receptor antagonist AM281. These results are the first to demonstrate a clear functional vanilloid receptor-mediated effect in the hippocampus, and further, that anandamide but not 2-AG acts at these receptors to increase paired-pulse depression of population spikes.