In electrically stimulated rat neocortical brain slices preloaded with [3H]gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) or [3H]glutamic acid, the pharmacological actions of 1-(aminomethyl)-cyclohexaneacetic acid (gabapentin, Gp) were compared with the GABAB receptor agonists baclofen (Bac) and (3-amino-2-(S)-hydroxypropyl)-methylphosphinic acid (CGP 44532). Gabapentin, baclofen and CGP 44532 all reduced the electrically stimulated release of [3H]glutamic acid (IC50=20 microM, 0.8 microM and 2 microM, respectively). These effects were sensitive to the GABAB receptor antagonists (+)-(S)-5,5 dimethylmorpholinyl-2-acetic acid (Sch 50911) or N-3-[[1-(S)-(3,4-dichlorophenyl)ethyl]amino]-2-(S)-hydroxypropyl-P-(cyclo-hexylmethyl)-phosphinic acid (CGP 54626). By contrast, gabapentin was without effect on the release of [3H]GABA, whilst baclofen (IC50=8 microM) and CGP 44532 (IC50=1 microM) inhibited [3H]GABA release. It is concluded that gabapentin selectively activates presynaptic GABAB heteroreceptors, but not GABAB autoreceptors, and may be a useful ligand to discriminate between presynaptic GABAB receptor subtypes.