Pharmacological properties of pre- and postsynaptic GABAB receptors were compared in CA1 hippocampal pyramidal neurons in vitro. The postsynaptic effects mediated by GABAB receptors, i.e., the baclofen-induced hyperpolarization, the bicuculline-resistant GABA response, and the slow inhibitory postsynaptic potential elicited by CA1 afferent stimulation, are all blocked by pertussis toxin (which inactivates some G proteins). These events are also suppressed by stimulating protein kinase C by phorbol esters and blocked by the selective GABAB antagonist phaclofen. In contrast, the baclofen-induced presynaptic depression of the excitatory postsynaptic potential elicited by CA1 afferent stimulation is resistant to the action of pertussis toxin and is not antagonized by phaclofen. However, this presynaptic inhibition can be antagonized by phorbol esters. These results indicate that the pre- and postsynaptic effects mediated by GABAB receptors in hippocampus have distinctly different pharmacological properties and possibly a different coupling mechanism.