Kynurenate, an endogenous tryptophan metabolite, was bath-applied to hippocampal slices while recording extracellular synaptic field potentials. Kynurenate antagonized the medial and lateral entorhinal projections to dentate granule cells, the Schaffer collateral projections to CA1 pyramidal cells, and inputs to the CA3 stratum radiatum of regio inferior with similar potencies. Concentration-response curves for these pathways paralleled theoretical antagonist curves with a Hill coefficient of 1, and the KdS were in the range of 130-400 microM. Projections to the stratum lucidum of regio inferior were much less sensitive to kynurenate. Inputs to CA3 pyramidal cells showed varying sensitivities to kynurenate, L-2-amino-4-phosphonobutanoic acid (L-APB), and (-)-baclofen depending on the placements of the stimulating and recording electrodes. When both electrodes were located in area CA3, outside the hilus of area dentata, all responses were insensitive to inhibition by L-APB. Under these conditions, responses recorded within the stratum radiatum were sensitive to inhibition by kynurenate and baclofen, while responses recorded within the stratum lucidum were insensitive to these drugs. When the stimulating electrode was placed within the hilus of area dentata, variable patterns of sensitivity to APB, baclofen, and kynurenate were observed from recording electrodes in area CA3. These results suggest that stimulation in the hilus, while recording in the stratum lucidum, produces responses that show composite effects resulting both from direct stimulation of mossy fibers and from stimulation of neuronal elements in the hilus which produce outputs to mossy fibers.