The conduction of calcium ions through glutamate-gated channels is important in the induction of long-term potentiation and may trigger other cellular changes. In retinal bipolar cells, which lack the N-methyl-D-aspartate (NMDA) type of glutamate-gated channel, calcium permeability through non-NMDA channels was examined. Changes in extracellular calcium concentration unexpectedly affected the reversal potential for glutamate-induced currents in a manner consistent with these channels being highly permeable to calcium. External magnesium ions promote desensitization of these non-NMDA channels in a voltage-independent way. Thus, in addition to non-NMDA channels that conduct only sodium and potassium, there is a class that is also permeable to calcium.