Xenopus laevis oocytes injected with Poly(A)(+)-RNA isolated from neuronal tissue express membrane proteins peculiar to the origin of mRNA. The translation of gamma aminobutyric acid type A (GABAA) receptors has been shown by dose/ response behavior of GABA and the reversible blockade of the GABA-induced current by picrotoxin. This current was analyzed quantitatively under two electrode voltage-clamp conditions. This methodology has been applied for the first time to study the functional properties of the receptor as a function of the stereochemistry of the ligands. The (+)-S and (-)-R enantiomers of a water-soluble benzodiazepine derivative, 7-chloro-1,3-dihydro-3-hemisuccinyloxy-5-phenyl-1,4-benzodiazep in-2-one (OXHEM), obtained by preparative high performance liquid chromatographic (HPLC) resolution on chiral stationary phase, act as agonists in the in vitro modulation of the chloride channel. The (+)-S-OXHEM enantiomer was the more active.