Regulation of synaptic transmission by metabotropic glutamate receptors (mGluRs) was examined at two excitatory inputs to interneurons with cell bodies at the granule cell-hilus border in hippocampal slices taken from neonatal rats. Subgroup-selective mGluR agonists altered the reliability, or probability of transmitter release, of evoked minimal excitatory synaptic inputs and decreased the amplitudes of excitatory postsynaptic currents (EPSCs) evoked with conventional stimulation. The group II-selective agonist, (2S,1R',2R',3R')-2-(2, 3-dicarboxylcyclopropyl) glycine (DCG-IV; 1 microM), reversibly depressed the reliability of EPSCs evoked by stimulation of the dentate granule cell layer. However, DCG-IV had no significant effect on EPSCs evoked by CA3 stimulation in the majority (82%) of hilar border interneurons. Both the group III-selective agonist, -(+)-2-amino-4-phosphonobutyric acid (-AP4; 3 microM), and the group I-selective agonist, (RS)-3,5-dihydroxyphenylglycine (DHPG; 20 microM) reversibly depressed synaptic input to interneurons from both CA3 and the granule cell layer. We conclude that multiple pharmacologically distinct mGluRs presynaptically regulate synaptic transmission at two excitatory inputs to hilar border interneurons. Further, the degree of mGluR-meditated depression of excitatory drive is greater at synapses from dentate granule cells onto interneurons than at synapses from CA3 pyramidal cells.