In the guinea pig hippocampus, kappa 1-opioid binding sites were primarily localized in the molecular layer of the dentate gyrus as shown by autoradiography using either the kappa 1-selective radioligand 3H-U69,593 or the nonselective radioligand 3H-diprenorphine in the presence of unlabeled mu- and delta-blocking ligands. In this region, the electrophysiological effects of kappa 1-receptor activation were identified using extracellular and intracellular recordings of dentate granule cell responses. The amplitude of the extracellularly recorded population spike was reduced by U69,593 with an EC50 of 26 nM; this effect was reversible and blocked by the opioid antagonist naloxone. The kappa 1-selective antagonist norbinaltorphimine also blocked the effect of U69,593 with an apparent equilibrium dissociation constant (Ki) of 0.26 nM determined by Schild analysis in the physiologic assay. This value agreed well with the Ki for norbinaltorphimine at kappa 1- binding sites measured by radioligand binding displacement (0.24 nM). These results indicate that the electrophysiologic response observed was likely mediated by kappa 1-receptors. As seen with U69,593, dynorphin B, an endogenous opioid peptide that is present in the dentate gyrus, also inhibited the population spike response. mu- and delta-selective opioid agonists had no effect on the amplitude of the maximally evoked response. Intracellular recordings of dentate granule cells showed no direct effects of U69,593 on the granule cells themselves. However, analysis of synaptic potentials revealed that U69,593 significantly reduced the amplitude of glutaminergic EPSPs evoked by afferent stimulation without affecting IPSP amplitudes. The specific effect of U69,593 application on granule cell EPSPs indicates that presynaptic kappa 1-receptor activation inhibits glutamate release from perforant path terminals in the molecular layer of the dentate gyrus. These results suggest that endogenous dynorphins present in the granule cells may act as feedback inhibitors of the major excitatory input to the dentate gyrus.