Picrotoxin (50 microM) elicited rhythmic synchronized bursting in CA3 pyramidal cells in guinea pig hippocampal slices. Addition of the selective group I metabotropic glutamate receptor (mGluR) agonist (S)-3,5-dihydroxyphenylglycine (25 microM) elicited an increase in burst frequency. This was soon followed by a slowly progressive increase in burst duration (BD), converting the brief 250-520 ms picrotoxin-induced synchronized bursts into prolonged discharges of 1-5 s in duration. BD was significantly increased within 60 min and reached a maximum after 2-2.5 h of agonist exposure. The protein synthesis inhibitors anisomycin (15 microM) or cycloheximide (25 microM) significantly impeded the mGluR-mediated development of the prolonged bursts; 90-120 min of agonist application failed to elicit the expected burst prolongation. By contrast, the mGluR-mediated enhancement of burst frequency progressed unimpeded. Furthermore, protein synthesis inhibitors had no significant effect on the frequency or duration of fully developed mGluR-induced prolonged discharges. These results suggest that the group I mGluR-mediated prolongation of synchronized bursts has a protein synthesis-dependent mechanism.