1. Simultaneous whole-cell recordings in a rat brain slice preparation are described from presynaptic terminals (calyces of Held) and postsynaptic somata which form an axosomatic synapse in the medial nucleus of the trapezoid body (MNTB). 2. Presynaptic action potentials evoked suprathreshold excitatory postsynaptic potentials (EPSPs). The minimum synaptic delay was around 0.4 ms at 36 degrees C and 0.9 ms at 23-24 degrees C. The amplitude of the L-alpha-amino-3-hydroxy-5-methyl-4-isoxazolepropionate (AMPA) receptor-mediated component of the excitatory postsynaptic currents (EPSCs) was 2-13 nA (at -80 mV). 3. Current-voltage relations showed that presynaptic Ca2+ channels were of the high voltage-activated type. 4. A single action potential evoked a presynaptic fluorescence transient that decayed with a time constant of 0.3-0.7 s, depending on the concentration (60-200 microM) of the Ca2+ indicator Calcium Green-5N (CG-5N). The peak amplitude of the [Ca2+]i transient was severalfold larger in the terminal than in the preterminal axon. 5. EPSC peak amplitudes were stable for more than 30 min after establishing the whole-cell configuration in the presynaptic terminal when the pipette contained 50 microM BAPTA. In contrast, with 1 mM BAPTA, peak amplitudes of EPSCs were reduced to one-third. 6. Trains of presynaptic action potentials evoked EPSCs with progressively smaller amplitudes. Little change was observed in the depression when the terminals were dialysed with 50 microM BAPTA, whereas depression was reduced with 1 mM BAPTA. 7. In low (1 mM) [Ca2+]o, facilitation instead of depression of EPSCs was observed. 8. The effects of presynaptic BAPTA suggest that the endogenous mobile Ca2+ buffer capacity of giant presynaptic terminals in the MNTB is lower than in other terminals of fast transmitting synapses.