1. Desensitization of a metabotropic response was investigated in CA3 pyramidal neurons in hippocampal slice cultures using the patch-clamp technique. 2. 1S,3R-1-aminocyclopentane-1,3-dicarboxylate (1S,3R-ACPD), an agonist at metabotropic glutamate receptors (mGluRs), and metacholine (MCh), an agonist at muscarinic receptors, induced a cationic current that appears to be activated through a G-protein-independent transduction process, as previously shown. Prolonged or repetitive bath application of agonists led to rapid desensitization of the cationic current with a time constant of approximately 20 s. 3. Complete recovery from desensitization was observed within 6 min. 4. These responses mediated by mGluRs and muscarinic receptors cross-desensitized. 5. Preventing the activation of G-proteins by loading cells with GDP beta S strongly reduced or suppressed desensitization, and resulted in a sustained inward cationic current. When cells were filled with GTP gamma S to irreversibly activate G-proteins, the desensitization process was enhanced such that a first application of agonist caused a markedly reduced response. 6. These results show that a cationic current induced by metabotropic agonists in hippocampal pyramidal cells undergoes apparent desensitization and suggests that this process occurs through a G-protein-mediated inhibition of the underlying membrane conductance.