N-type calcium channels play a dominant role in controlling synaptic transmission in many peripheral neurons. Transmitter release from mammalian central nerve terminals, however, is relatively resistant to the N channel antagonist omega-conotoxin GVIA. We studied the sensitivity of glutamatergic synaptic transmission in rat hippocampal slices to omega-conotoxin and to omega-Aga-IVA, a P channel antagonist. Both toxins reduced the amplitude of excitatory postsynaptic potentials in CA1 pyramidal neurons, but omega-Aga-IVA was the more rapid and efficacious. These results were corroborated by biochemical studies measuring subsecond, calcium-dependent [3H]glutamate release from hippocampal synaptosomes. Thus, at least two calcium channel types trigger glutamate release from hippocampal neurons, but P-type plays a more prominent role. Eliminating synaptic transmission in the CNS, therefore, may require inhibiting more than a single calcium channel type.