Application of group I metabotropic glutamate receptor (mGluR) agonists elicits seizure discharges in vivo and prolonged ictal-like activity in in vitro brain slices. In this study we examined 1) if group I mGluRs are activated by synaptically released glutamate during epileptiform discharges induced by convulsants in hippocampal slices and, if so, 2) whether the synaptically activated mGluRs contribute to the pattern of the epileptiform discharges. The GABA(A) receptor antagonist bicuculline (50 microM) was applied to induce short synchronized bursts of approximately 250 ms in mouse hippocampal slices. Addition of 4-aminopyridine (4-AP; 100 microM) prolonged these bursts to 0.7-2 s. The mGluR1 antagonist (S)-(+)-alpha-amino-4-carboxy-2-methylbenzeneacetic acid (LY 367385; 25-100 microM) and the mGluR5 antagonist 2-methyl-6-(phenylethynyl)pyridine (MPEP; 10-50 microM), applied separately, significantly reduced the duration of the synchronized discharges. The effects of these antagonists were additive when applied together, suggesting that mGluR1 and mGluR5 exert independent actions on the epileptiform bursts. In phospholipase C beta1 (PLCbeta1) knockout mice, bicuculline and 4-AP elicited prolonged synchronized discharges of comparable duration as those observed in slices from wild-type littermates. Furthermore, mGluR1 and mGluR5 antagonists reduced the duration of the epileptiform discharges to the same extent as they did in the wild-type preparations. The results suggest that mGluR1 and mGluR5 are activated synaptically during prolonged epileptiform discharges induced by bicuculline and 4-AP. Synaptic activation of these receptors extended the duration of synchronized discharges. In addition, the data indicate that the synaptic effects of the group I mGluRs on the duration of epileptiform discharges were mediated by a PLCbeta1-independent mechanism.