Effects of inhibitory mediators on the membranes of isolated lamprey spinal cord neurones were investigated by means of whole-cell recording and concentration clamp techniques. Glycine and gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) applications evoked desensitizing chloride currents. The concentrations at half-maximum effects were 16 microM for glycine- and 1.5 mM for GABA-activated currents. Ionic responses to applications of both amino acids demonstrated full cross-desensitization. Strychnine and bicuculline suppressed both glycine- and GABA-activated conductances to the same degree. We suggest that in the membranes of lamprey spinal cord neurones glycine and GABA act on the same receptor-channel complexes.