Intracellular recordings were made from narrow-field, bistratified AII amacrine cells in the isolated, superfused retina-eyecup of the rabbit. Pharmacological agents were applied to neurons to dissect the synaptic pathways subserving AII cells so as to determine the circuitry generating their off-surround responses. Application of the GABA antagonists, picrotoxin, bicuculline and 1,2,5,6-tetrahydropyridine-4-yl methylphosphinic acid (TPMPA) all increased the on-centre responses of AII amacrine cells, but attenuated the off-surround activity. At equal concentrations, picrotoxin was approximately twice as effective as bicuculline or TPMPA in modifying the response activity of AII amacrine cells. These results indicate that the mechanism underlying surround inhibition of AII amacrine cells includes activation of both GABA(A) and GABA(C) receptors in an approximately equal ratio. Application of the GABA antagonists also increased the size of on-centre receptive fields of AII amacrine cells. Again, picrotoxin was most effective, producing, on average, a 54 % increase in the size of the receptive field, whereas bicuculline and TPMPA produced comparable 34 and 33 % increases, respectfully. Application of the voltage-gated sodium channel blocker TTX produced effects on AII amacrine cells qualitatively similar to those of the GABA blockers. Intracellular application of the chloride channel blocker 4,4'-dinitro-stilbene-2,2'-disulphonic acid (DNDS) abolished the direct effects of GABA on AII amacrine cells. Moreover, DNDS increased the amplitude of both the on-centre and off-surround responses. The failure of DNDS to block the off-surround activity indicates that it is not mediated by direct GABAergic inhibition. Taken together, our results suggest that surround receptive fields of AII amacrine cells are generated indirectly by the GABAergic, reciprocal feedback synapses from S1/S2 amacrine cells to the axon terminals of rod bipolar cells.