The incretin hormone, glucagon-like peptide-1 (GLP-1) is released from intestinal L-cells following food ingestion. Its secretion is triggered by a range of nutrients, including fats, carbohydrates and proteins. We reported previously that Na(+)-dependent glutamine uptake triggered electrical activity and GLP-1 release from the L-cell model line GLUTag. However, whereas alanine also triggered membrane depolarization and GLP-1 secretion, the response was Na+ independent. A range of alanine analogues, including d-alanine, beta-alanine, glycine and l-serine, but not d-serine, triggered similar depolarizing currents and elevation of intracellular [Ca2+], a sensitivity profile suggesting the involvement of glycine receptors. In support of this idea, glycine-induced currents and GLP-1 release were blocked by strychnine, and currents showed a 58.5 mV shift in reversal potential per 10-fold change in [Cl-], consistent with the activation of a Cl(-)-selective current. GABA, an agonist of related Cl- channels, also triggered Cl- currents and secretion, which were sensitive to picrotoxin. GABA-triggered [Ca2+]i increments were abolished by bicuculline and partially impaired by (1,2,5,6-tetrahydropyridine-4-yl)methylphosphinic acid (TPMPA), suggesting the involvement of both GABA(A) and GABA(C) receptors. Expression of GABA(A), GABA(C) and glycine receptor subunits was confirmed by RT-PCR. Glycine-triggered GLP-1 secretion was impaired by bumetanide but not bendrofluazide, suggesting that a high intracellular [Cl-] maintained by Na(+)-K(+)-2Cl- cotransporters is necessary for the depolarizing response to glycine receptor ligands. Our results suggest that GABA and glycine stimulate electrical activity and GLP-1 release from GLUTag cells by ligand-gated ion channel activation, a mechanism that might be important in responses to endogenous ligands from the enteric nervous system or dietary sources.