Benzodiazepine (BZD) potentiation of GABA-activated Cl(-)-current (I(GABA)) in recombinant GABA(A) receptors requires the presence of the gamma subunit. When alpha1, beta2 and gamma2S cRNA are expressed in a 1:1:1 ratio in Xenopus oocytes, BZD potentiation of I(GABA) is submaximal, variable and diminishes over time. Potentiation by BZDs is increased, more reproducible and is stabilized over time by increasing the relative amount of cRNA coding for the gamma2S subunit. In addition, GABA EC(50) values for alpha1beta2gamma2 (1:1:1) receptors are intermediate to values measured for alpha1beta2 (1:1) and alpha1beta2gamma2 (1:1:10) receptors. We conclude that co-expression of equal ratios of alpha1, beta2 and gamma2 subunits in Xenopus oocytes produces a mixed population of alpha1beta2 and alpha1beta2gamma2 receptors. Therefore, for accurate measurements of BZD potentiation it is necessary to inject a higher ratio of gamma2 subunit cRNA relative to alpha1 and beta2 cRNA. This results in a purer population of alpha1beta2gamma2 receptors.