We recorded intracellularly from core nucleus accumbens (NAcc) neurons in brain slices to study the regulation by metabotropic glutamate receptors (mGluRs) of pharmacologically isolated N-methyl--aspartate-mediated excitatory postsynaptic currents (NMDA-EPSCs). Monosynaptic NMDA-EPSCs, evoked by local stimulation, were isolated by superfusion of the non-NMDA and gamma-aminobutyric acid-A (GABAA) receptor antagonists, 6-cyano-7-nitroquinoxaline-2,3-dione (CNQX; 10 microM) and bicuculline (15 microM), respectively. Trans-1-aminocyclopentane-1,3-decarboxylic acid (trans-ACPD; 50 microM), a nonspecific group 1 and 2 mGluR agonist, had no effect on resting membrane potential (RMP) or input resistance of NAcc neurons. However, it consistently decreased NMDA-EPSC areas (time integrals) dose dependently (1-100 microM; EC50 = 8 microM) and reversibly. The specific group 1 mGluR agonists quisqualate (1-4 microM) and (RS)-3, 5-dihydroxyphenylglycine (DHPG; 100 microM) did not mimic the trans-ACPD effect on NMDA-EPSCs, nor did exposure of the slice to the group 1 mGluR antagonist (+)-2-amino-3-phosphonopropionic acid (-AP3, 0.4 mM) inhibit the trans-ACPD effect. The putative mGluR1 and mGluR2 antagonist (+)-alpha-methyl-4-carboxyphenylglycine (MCPG) at 0.5 mM failed to antagonize trans-ACPD effects but at 1 mM blocked them. Both the group 2 mGluR agonist (2S,3S, 4S)-alpha-(carboxycyclopropyl)-glycine (-CCG-I, 2 microM) and the group 3 mGluR specific agonist (+)-2-amino-4-phosphonobutyric acid (-AP4, 20 microM) attenuated NMDA-EPSC areas; the effect of -AP4 was blocked by the group 3 antagonist (S)-2-amino-2-methyl-4-phosphonobutanoic acid (MAP4; 0.5 mM). Exogenously applied NMDA, in the presence of tetrodotoxin to prevent presynaptic effects, induced inward currents that were decreased by 20 microM -AP4 but not by 10 microM trans-ACPD. These findings suggest that NMDA receptor-mediated neurotransmission in NAcc is under dual inhibitory regulation by group 2 and 3 metabotropic receptor subtypes: -AP4-sensitive receptors located postsynaptically and those sensitive to trans-ACPD located presynaptically.