Excitatory synaptic transmission in the central nervous system is mediated primarily by the release of glutamate from presynaptic terminals onto postsynaptic channels gated by N-methyl-D-aspartate (NMDA) and alpha-amino-3-hydroxy-5-methylisoxazole-4-propionate (AMPA) receptors. The myriad intracellular responses arising from the activation of the NMDA and AMPA receptors have previously been attributed to the flow of Ca2+ and/or Na+ through these ion channels. Here we report that the binding of the agonist AMPA to its receptor can generate intracellular signals that are independent of Ca2+ and Na+ in rat cortical neurons. In the absence of intracellular Ca2+ and Na+, AMPA, but not NMDA, brought about changes in a guanine-nucleotide-binding protein (Galpha[il]) that inhibited pertussis toxin-mediated ADP-ribosylation of the protein in an in vitro assay. This effect was observed in intact neurons treated with AMPA as well as in isolated membranes exposed to AMPA, and was also found in MIN6 cells, which express functional AMPA receptors but have no metabotropic glutamate receptors. AMPA also inhibited forskolin-stimulated activity of adenylate cyclase in neurons, demonstrating that Gi proteins were activated. Moreover, both Gbetagamma blockage and co-precipitation experiments demonstrated that the modulation of the Gi protein arose from the association of Galpha(il) with the glutamate receptor-1 (GluR1) subunit. These results suggest that, as well as acting as an ion channel, the AMPA receptor can exhibit metabotropic activity.