Imidazole-4-acetic acid-ribotide (IAA-RP), an endogenous agonist at imidazoline receptors (I-Rs), is a putative neurotransmitter/regulator in mammalian brain. We studied the effects of IAA-RP on excitatory transmission by performing extracellular and whole cell recordings at Schaffer collateral-CA1 synapses in rat hippocampal slices. Bath-applied IAA-RP induced a concentration-dependent depression of synaptic transmission that, after washout, returned to baseline within 20 min. Maximal decrease occurred with 10 μM IAA-RP, which reduced the slope of field extracellular postsynaptic potentials (fEPSPs) to 51.2 ± 5.7% of baseline at 20 min of exposure. Imidazole-4-acetic acid-riboside (IAA-R; 10 μM), the endogenous dephosphorylated metabolite of IAA-RP, also produced inhibition of fEPSPs. This effect was smaller than that produced by IAA-RP (to 65.9 ± 3.8% of baseline) and occurred after a further 5- to 8-min delay. The frequency, but not the amplitude, of miniature excitatory postsynaptic currents was decreased, and paired-pulse facilitation (PPF) was increased after application of IAA-RP, suggesting a principally presynaptic site of action. Since IAA-RP also has low affinity for α(2)-adrenergic receptors (α(2)-ARs), we tested synaptic depression induced by IAA-RP in the presence of α(2)-ARs, I(1)-R, or I(3)-R antagonists. The α(2)-AR antagonist rauwolscine (100 nM), which blocked the actions of the α(2)-AR agonist clonidine, did not affect either the IAA-RP-induced synaptic depression or the increase in PPF. In contrast, efaroxan (50 μM), a mixed I(1)-R and α(2)-AR antagonist, abolished the synaptic depression induced by IAA-RP and abolished the related increase in PPF. KU-14R, an I(3)-R antagonist, partially attenuated responses to IAA-RP. Taken together, these data support a role for IAA-RP in modulating synaptic transmission in the hippocampus through activation of I-Rs.