1. We studied the transient suppression of evoked GABAA ergic inhibitory postsynaptic currents (eIPSCs) that follows brief membrane depolarization in rat CA1 hippocampal pyramidal cells, a process called depolarization-induced suppression of inhibition (DSI). We used whole-cell patch electrodes filled with a CsCl-based solution to voltage clamp the currents. All experiments were done in the presence of 50 microM 2-amino-5-phosphonovaleric acid (APV) and 20 microM 6-cyano-7-nitroquinoxaline-2,3-dione (CNQX) to block ionotropic glutamate-induced currents and polysynaptic transmission in the slice preparation. 2. Substituting strontium (Sr2+) for extracellular calcium (Ca2+) led to the appearance of numerous 'asynchronous' small IPSCs following an eIPSC. These asynchronous IPSCs were indistinguishable from TTX-insensitive quantal IPSCs. 3. Although somewhat less effective than Ca2+, Sr2+ was capable of supporting DSI, and both asynchronous and synchronous IPSCs were blocked by the DSI process. 4. During DSI, quantal content of eIPSCs, but not quantal size, was significantly reduced. 5. Sr2+ converted paired-pulse depression (PPD) of eIPSCs to a paired-pulse facilitation (PPF), presumably by altering the probability of release at inhibitory nerve terminals. DSI had no effect on either PPD or PPF. 6. The results show that Sr2+ induces asynchronous release of GABA as it does of other neurotransmitters and changes the probability of release at GABAA ergic terminals as well. Most importantly, the results support the hypothesis that, despite being induced postsynaptically, DSI is expressed presynaptically as a decrease in GABA release, possibly by acting at a site other than the Ca(2+)-dependent release step.