Glutamate receptors of the kainate-preferring subtype have recently been shown to mediate synaptic transmission in the hippocampus. The low-affinity kainate receptor subunit GluR7 was found to be nonfunctional in previous studies. We report here that the GluR7 subunit and a novel carboxy-terminal splice variant, GluR7b, are functional glutamate receptors with unique pharmacological properties. In particular, glutamate exhibits a 10-fold lower potency for (non-desensitized) GluR7-mediated currents as compared to other non-NMDA receptor channels. These data will facilitate understanding of the distinct role played by GluR7 receptors in synaptic transmission.