Single-electrode voltage-clamp recordings were obtained from CA3 pyramidal cells in rat hippocampal organotypic slice cultures, and the slow Ca2+-dependent K+ current or afterhyperpolarization current (IAHP) was elicited with brief depolarizing voltage jumps. The slow IAHP was suppressed by the selective L-type Ca2+ channel antagonists isradipine (2 microM) or nifedipine (10 microM). In contrast, neither omega-conotoxin MVIIA (1 microM) nor omega-agatoxin IVA (200 nM), N-type and P/Q-type Ca2+ channel antagonists, respectively, attenuated this slow outward current. The slow IAHP was significantly reduced by thapsigargin (10 microM), a Ca2+ ATPase inhibitor that depletes intracellular Ca2+ stores, and by ryanodine (10-100 microM), which blocks Ca2+-induced Ca2+ release from intracellular compartments. At this concentration thapsigargin did not modify high-threshold Ca2+ current, which was, however, blocked by isradipine. Thus, in hippocampal CA3 pyramidal cells, Ca2+ influx through L-type Ca2+ channels is necessary to trigger the slow IAHP. Furthermore, intracellular Ca2+-activated Ca2+ stores represent a critical component in the transduction pathway leading to the generation of the slow IAHP.