Purified preparations of the inhibitory glycine receptor (GlyR) contain alpha and beta subunits, which share homologous primary structures and a common transmembrane topology with other members of the ligand-gated ion channel superfamily. Here, a beta subunit-specific antiserum was shown to precipitate the [3H]strychnine binding sites localized on alpha subunits from membrane extracts of both rat spinal cord and mammalian cells co-transfected with alpha and beta cDNAs. Further, inhibition of alpha homo-oligomeric GlyRs by picrotoxinin, a non-competitive blocker of ion flow, was reduced 50- to 200-fold for alpha/beta hetero-oligomeric receptors generated by cotransfection. Site-directed mutagenesis identified residues within the second predicted transmembrane segment (M2) of the beta subunit as major determinants of picrotoxinin resistance. These data implicate the M2 segment in blocker binding to and lining of the GlyR chloride channel.