The metabotropic glutamate receptor 5 (mGluR5) is expressed by astrocytes and its expression is modulated by inflammation. Enteric glia have many similarities to astrocytes and are the most numerous cell in the enteric nervous system (ENS). We investigated whether enteric glia express a functional mGluR5 and whether expression of this receptor was altered in colitis. In both enteric plexuses of the ileum and colon of guinea pigs and mice, we observed widespread glial mGluR5 expression. Incubation of isolated segments of the guinea pig ileum with the mGluR5 specific agonist RS-2-chloro-5-hydroxyphenylglycine (CHPG) caused a dose-dependent increase in the glial expression of c-Fos and the phosphorylated form of the extracellular signal-regulated kinase 1/2. Preincubation of tissues with the group I metabotropic glutamate receptor antagonist, S-4-carboxyphenylglycine, abolished the effects of CHPG. We examined mGluR5 expression in the guinea pig trinitrobenzene sulfonic acid and the IL-10 gene-deficient (IL-10(-/-)) mouse models of colitis. In guinea pigs, mGluR5 immunoreactivity became diffusely localized over the colonic myenteric ganglia, suggesting a change in receptor distribution. In contrast, glial mGluR5 expression was significantly reduced in the colonic myenteric plexus of IL-10(-/-) mice, as assessed with both real-time quantitative RT-PCR as well as immunohistochemistry and image analysis. These changes occurred without concomitant changes to enteric ganglia or glial fibrillary acidic protein expression in the IL-10(-/-) mouse. Our data suggest that enteric glia are a functional target of the glutamatergic neurotransmitter system in the ENS and that changes in mGluR5 expression may be of physiological significance during colitis.