Presynaptic inhibition of neurotransmitter release is thought to be mediated by a reduction of axon terminal Ca2+ current. We have compared the actions of several known inhibitors of evoked glutamate release with the actions of the Ca2+ channel antagonist Cd2+ on action potential-independent synaptic currents recorded from CA3 neurons in hippocampal slice cultures. Baclofen and adenosine decreased the frequency of miniature excitatory postsynaptic currents (mEPSCs) without affecting the distribution of their amplitudes. Cd2+ blocked evoked synaptic transmission, but had no effect on the frequency or amplitude of either mEPSCs or inhibitory postsynaptic currents (IPSCs). Inhibition of presynaptic Ca2+ current therefore appears not to be required for the inhibition of glutamate release by adenosine and baclofen. Baclofen had no effect on the frequency of miniature IPSCs, indicating that gamma-aminobutyric acid B-type receptors exert distinct presynaptic actions at excitatory and inhibitory synapses.