Modulation of Ca2+ channels by metabotropic glutamate receptors (mGluRs) was investigated in cerebellar granule cells using the cell- attached configuration of the patch-clamp technique. Experiments were performed in the absence of external Ca2+ and Ba2+ was used as charge carrier. Bath applied glutamate or (1S,3R) trans-1-aminocyclopentane- 1,3-dicarboxylic acid (1S,3R t-ACPD) inhibited Ca2+ channels activated by depolarizing pulses. These channels were sensitive to dihydropyridines and displayed a 23 pS conductance. This effect was mimicked by (2S,1'S,2'S)-2-(carboxycyclopropyl)glycine (L-CCG-I), a selective agonist of mGluR2/R3 receptors, but not by quisqualate at a concentration that stimulated inositol phosphate (InsP) synthesis, showing that mGluR1 and mGluR5 did not participate to this mechanism. The phosphodiesterase inhibitor, isobutylmethylxanthine (IBMX), did not alter the action of the mGluR agonists and biochemical measurements showed that 1S,3R t-ACPD, in the presence of IBMX, decreased cAMP formation in such a small amount that this change could not explain the almost complete inhibition of the channel activity observed under similar experimental conditions. Moreover, whole-cell recorded L-type Ca2+ currents were inhibited by L-CCG-I, in the presence of 1 mM intracellular cAMP. These observations were consistent with the hypothesis that cyclic nucleotide second messengers were not involved in this effect. Neither the protein kinase C activator phorbol-12,13- dibutyrate (PDBU) nor the phosphatase inhibitor okadaic acid affected the action of 1S,3R t-ACPD. The inhibitory action of 1S,3R t-ACPD was abolished by pertussis toxin (PTX). These results suggest that mGluR2 or mGluR3 receptors suppress the activity of L-type Ca2+ channels by a mechanism involving Gi or G(o) proteins. A likely direct effect of G- proteins on the channels is discussed.