Glial cells in the CA1 stratum radiatum of the hippocampus of 9- to 12-day-old mice show intrinsic responses to glutamate due to the activation of alpha-amino-3-hydroxy-5-methyl-4-isoxazole propionate (AMPA)/kainate receptors. In the present study we have focused on a subpopulation of the hippocampal glial cells, the "complex" cells, characterized by voltage-gated Na+ and K+ channels. Activation of glutamate receptors in these cells led to two types of responses, the activation of a cationic conductance, and a longer-lasting blockade of voltage-gated K+ channels. In particular, the transient (inactivating) component of the outwardly rectifying K+ current was diminished by kainate. Concomitantly, as described in Bergmann glial cells, kainate also elevated cytosolic Ca2+. This increase was due to an influx via the glutamate receptor itself. In contrast to Bergmann glial cells, the cytosolic Ca2+ increase was not a link to the K+ channel blockade, since the blockade occurred in the absence of the Ca2+ signal and, vice versa, an increase in cytosolic Ca2+ induced by ionomycin did not block the transient K+ current. We conclude that glutamate receptor activation leads to complex and variable changes in different types of glial cells; the functional importance of these changes is as yet unresolved.