1. Glycine was applied to acutely dissociated neurons of the guinea pig ventral cochlear nucleus (VCN) with the use of iontophoresis. With approximately equal chloride concentrations in the extra- and intracellular solutions (i.e., chloride equilibrium potential = 0 mV), cells held at -60 mV responded with inward currents that were 1-10 nA in amplitude, had rise times of approximately 50 ms, and decayed to half of the peak amplitude in 50-600 ms. More than 95% of cells with diameters > 12 microns responded to glycine. Response amplitude and area increased with increasing duration of the iontophoretic pulse. Response amplitude saturated at pulse durations of 60-80 ms, whereas response area did not exhibit saturation for pulse durations of 10-100 ms. 2. The glycine antagonist strychnine was added to the extracellular solution at concentrations of 0.5-500 nM to evaluate its effect on glycine-evoked responses. Strychnine produced a 50% reduction in the response at a concentration of 12 nM and the dose-response function had a limiting slope (Hill coefficient) of 1.4. 3. Changes in glycine-evoked currents as a function of cell membrane potential were examined in the presence of tetrodotoxin, tetraethylammonium chloride, and 4-aminopyridine, which block sodium and potassium conductances activated by depolarization. Both the amplitude and the decay of glycine-evoked currents displayed a voltage dependence. Under conditions where the glycine currents reversed at -35 mV, the amplitudes of responses evoked at membrane potentials of 0 mV were 2.3 times larger than those of responses evoked at -70 mV. The decay time constant at 0 mV was 1.49 times longer than that at -70 mV. 4. Acutely dissociated neurons of the VCN previously have been classified on the basis of the absence (type I) or presence (type II) of a low-threshold outward current. Type I cells fire repetitively in response to current pulses, whereas type II cells fire transiently. Glycine-evoked responses were compared in cells identified electrophysiologically as type I or type II on the basis of previously established criteria under voltage clamp. The average amplitudes of responses recorded at a membrane potential of -70 mV were 1.1 and 1.3 nA for type I and type II cells, respectively. The rise time of the glycine current for the two groups of cells was similar (52 ms for type I and 57 ms for type II), but the decay of currents to half-maximum amplitude following the offset of the iontophoretic pulse was longer in type II cells (340 ms) than in type I cells (173 ms). No differences between the two groups were noted with regard to the outward rectification of peak currents or the voltage dependence of current decay. 5. The reversal potential of glycine-evoked responses was determined in extracellular solutions with varying chloride concentrations. The change in the glycine reversal potential (54 mV) for a 10-fold change in chloride concentration was similar to the change in the chloride equilibrium potential (58 mV) over the same range of extracellular chloride concentrations. A similar result was obtained by maintaining the extracellular chloride concentration constant and varying the chloride concentration in the intracellular solution. Glycine-evoked responses were not affected by changes in the potassium or sodium equilibrium potentials. The glycine receptors are therefore principally permeable to chloride. 6. In the VCN, glycine-mediated currents are readily evoked from the majority of larger neurons, indicating an abundance of glycine receptors on the somata and proximal processes of these neurons. The properties of glycine receptors in VCN and other areas of the nervous system are generally similar. The voltage dependence of glycine-evoked currents implies that the inhibitory effectiveness of glycine receptors in VCN increases nonlinearly with depolarization.