The functional properties of glycine receptors were analysed in different types of wide-field amacrine cells, narrowly stratifying cells considered to play a role in larger-scale integration across the retina. The patch-clamp technique was used to record spontaneous IPSCs (spIPSCs) and glycine-evoked patch responses from mature rat retinal slices (4-7 weeks postnatal). Glycinergic spIPSCs were blocked reversibly by strychnine (300 nM). Compared to previously described spIPSCs in AII amacrine cells, the spIPSCs in wide-field amacrine cells displayed a very slow decay time course (tau(fast) approximately 15 ms; tau(slow) approximately 57 ms). The kinetic properties of spIPSCs in whole-cell recordings were paralleled by even slower deactivation kinetics of responses evoked by brief pulses of glycine (3 mm) to outside-out patches from wide-field amacrine cells (tau(fast) approximately 45 ms; tau(slow) approximately 350 ms). Non-stationary noise analysis of patch responses and spIPSCs yielded similar average single-channel conductances (approximately 31 and approximately 34 pS, respectively). Similar, as well as both lower- and higher-conductance levels could be identified from directly observed single-channel gating during the decay phase of spIPSCs and patch responses. These results suggest that the slow glycinergic spIPSCs in wide-field amacrine cells involve alpha2beta heteromeric receptors. Taken together with previous work, the kinetic properties of glycine receptors in different types of amacrine cells display a considerable range that is probably a direct consequence of differential expression of receptor subunits. Unique kinetic properties are likely to differentially shape the glycinergic input to different types of amacrine cells and thereby contribute to distinct integrative properties among these cells.