Strychnine-sensitive glycine receptors (GlyRs) are known to mediate synaptic inhibition in spinal cord, brainstem and other regions of the CNS. During the past 5 years, considerable progress has been made in delineating structural determinants of ligand binding and channel activation in recombinant GlyRs. Furthermore, immunohistochemical and gene inactivation studies have disclosed distinct distributions and functions of differentially expressed GlyR subtypes in retina, hippocampus and the dorsal horn of the spinal cord. Accordingly, GlyRs regulate not only the excitability of motor and sensory neurones, but are also essential for the processing of photoreceptor signals, neuronal development and inflammatory pain sensitization. Hence, these receptors constitute promising targets for the development of clinically useful compounds.