Three approaches to study the function of mammalian rod bipolar cells are described. Extracellular recordings from the intact cat eye under light- and dark-adapted conditions showed that in dark-adapted retina all light responses can be blocked by 2-amino-4-phosphonobutyrate (APB). Immunocytochemical staining with an antibody against protein kinase C (PKC) labeled rod bipolar cells in all mammalian retinae tested. When rat retinae were dissociated, PKC immunoreactivity was also found in isolated bipolar cells and could be used for their identification as rod bipolars. Patch-clamp recordings were performed from such dissociated rod bipolar cells and their responses to APB were measured. APB closed a nonselective cation channel in the cell membrane. The actions of GABA and glycine were also tested and both opened chloride channels in dissociated rod bipolar cells. These results suggest that rod bipolar cells are depolarized by a light stimulus and that GABA as well as glycine modulate their light responses.