The AP4 (2-amino-4-phosphonobutyrate) receptor is a presynaptic glutamate receptor that inhibits transmitter release via an unknown mechanism. We examined the action of L-AP4 on voltage-dependent calcium currents and excitatory synaptic transmission on cultured olfactory bulb neurons using whole-cell voltage-clamp methods. In neurons dialyzed with GTP, L-AP4 inhibited high-threshold calcium currents evoked in barium solutions. The inhibition was irreversible in the presence of GTP-gamma-S and blocked by removing intracellular Mg2+ or by preincubation with pertussis toxin (PTX), consistent with the involvement of a PTX-sensitive G-protein. Dialysis with staurosporine or buffering of intracellular calcium to pCa less than 8 did not block the action of L-AP4, suggesting that protein phosphorylation or release of intracellular calcium stores was not involved in calcium current inhibition under these experimental conditions. PTX also blocked the L- AP4-induced inhibition of monosynaptic EPSPs evoked by intracellular stimulation of cultured mitral cells. These results suggest that the presynaptic AP4 receptor is a G-protein-coupled glutamate receptor, and that inhibition of calcium influx by a membrane-delimited action of a G- protein may account for L-AP4-induced presynaptic inhibition.