Glomeruli are functional units of the olfactory bulb responsible for early processing of odor information encoded by single olfactory receptor genes. Glomerular neural circuitry includes numerous external tufted (ET) cells whose rhythmic burst firing may mediate synchronization of bulbar activity with the inhalation cycle. Bursting is entrained by glutamatergic input from olfactory nerve terminals, so specific properties of ionotropic glutamate receptors on ET cells are likely to be important determinants of olfactory processing. Particularly intriguing is recent evidence that AMPA receptors of juxta-glomerular neurons may permeate calcium. This could provide a novel pathway for regulating ET cell signaling. We tested the hypothesis that ET cells express functional calcium-permeable AMPA receptors. In rat olfactory bulb slices, excitatory postsynaptic currents (EPSCs) in ET cells were evoked by olfactory nerve shock, and by uncaging glutamate. We found attenuation of AMPA/kainate EPSCs by 1-naphthyl acetyl-spermine (NAS), an open-channel blocker specific for calcium permeable AMPA receptors. Cyclothiazide strongly potentiated EPSCs, indicating a major contribution from AMPA receptors. The current-voltage (I-V) relation of uncaging EPSCs showed weak inward rectification which was lost after > approximately 10 min of whole-cell dialysis, and was absent in NAS. In kainate-stimulated slices, Co(2+) ions permeated cells of the glomerular layer. Large AMPA EPSCs were accompanied by fluorescence signals in fluo-4 loaded cells, suggesting calcium permeation. Depolarizing pulses evoked slow tail currents with pharmacology consistent with involvement of calcium permeable AMPA autoreceptors. Tail currents were abolished by Cd(2+) and (+/-)-4-(4-aminophenyl)-2,3-dioxo-6-nitro-1,2,3,4-tetrahydrobenzo[f]quinoxaline-7-sulfonamide (NBQX), and were sensitive to NAS block. Glutamate autoreceptors were confirmed by uncaging intracellular calcium to evoke a large inward current. Our results provide evidence that calcium permeable AMPA receptors reside on ET cells, and are divided into at least two functionally distinct pools: postsynaptic receptors at olfactory nerve synaptic terminals, and autoreceptors sensitive to glutamate released from dendrodendritic synapses.