In a previous study we reported that the addition of a carboxylic group to the mGlu receptor agonist aminocyclopentane-1,3-dicarboxylate (ACPD) changes its properties from agonist to antagonist at both mGlu1 and mGlu2 receptors, and resulted in an increase in affinity at mGlu4 receptors, with isomers being either agonists or antagonists. In the present study, the effect of gamma-carboxy-L-glutamic acid (Gla) and (2S,2'R,3'R)-2-(2,3-dicarboxycyclopropyl)glycine (DCG-IV), two carboxylic derivatives of non-selective agonists, were examined on all cloned mGlu receptors. We found that this additional carboxylic group on glutamate prevents its interaction with group-I mGlu receptors and generates a potent group-II antagonist (K(B) = 55 microM on mGlu2). At group-III mGlu receptors, Gla was found to be either an antagonist (mGlu7 and mGlu8 receptors) or a partial agonist (mGlu4 and mGlu6 receptors). We show here that L-CCG-I is a general mGlu receptor agonist activating all cloned receptors. We also confirm that DCG-IV, which corresponds to L-CCG-I with an additional carboxylic group, is a selective group-II agonist. However, this additional COOH group changes the properties of L-CCG-I from an agonist to an antagonist at all group-III receptors, making this compound one of the most potent group-III mGlu receptor antagonist known so far. These observations will be useful for the development of more potent and selective mGlu receptor agonists and antagonists.