The inhibitory neurotransmitter, GABA, activates a variety of receptors in all areas of the CNS. Two major subtypes of GABA receptors are well known: (1) GABAA receptors are ligand-gated Cl- channels that consist of a heteromeric mixture of protein subunits forming a pentameric structure, and (2) GABAB receptors couple to Ca2+ and K+ channels via G proteins and second messengers. Here, Graham Johnston discusses evidence for a third major subclass of GABA receptors. GABAC receptors appear to be relatively simple ligand-gated Cl- channels with a distinctive pharmacology, in that they are not blocked by bicuculline and not modulated by barbiturates, benzodiazepines or neuroactive steroids. Compared with GABAA receptors, GABAC receptors are activated at lower concentrations of GABA and are less liable to desensitization. In addition, their channels open for a longer time. The pharmacology of these novel subtypes of GABA receptors may yield important therapeutic agents.