Although both protein and mRNAs for kainate receptor subunits are abundant in several brain regions, the responsiveness of AMPA receptors to kainate has made it difficult to demonstrate the presence of functional kainate-type receptors in native cells. Recently, however, we have shown that many hippocampal neurons in culture express glutamate receptors of the kainate type. The large nondesensitizing response that kainate induces at AMPA receptors precludes detection and analysis of smaller, rapidly desensitizing currents induced by kainate at kainate receptors. Consequently, the functional significance of these strongly desensitizing glutamate receptors remains enigmatic. We report here that the family of new noncompetitive antagonists of AMPA receptors (GYKI 52466 and 53655) minimally affects kainate-induced responses at kainate receptors while completely blocking AMPA receptor-mediated currents, making it possible to separate the responses mediated by each receptor. These compounds will allow determination of the role played by kainate receptors in synaptic transmission and plasticity in the mammalian brain, as well as evaluation of their involvement in neurotoxicity.