Despite considerable evidence that ethanol can enhance chloride flux through the gamma-aminobutyric acid type A (GABA/A/) receptor-channel complex in several central neuron types, the effect of ethanol on hippocampal GABAergic systems is still controversial. Therefore, we have reevaluated this interaction in hippocampal pyramidal neurons subjected to local monosynaptic activation combined with pharmacological isolation of the various components of excitatory and inhibitory synaptic potentials, using intracellular current- and voltage-clamp recording methods in the hippocampal slice. In accord with our previous findings, we found that ethanol had little effect on compound inhibitory postsynaptic potentials/currents (IPSP/Cs) containing both GABA/A/ and GABA/B/ components. However, after selective pharmacological blockade of the GABA/B/ component of the IPSP (GABA/B/-IPSP/C) by CGP-35348, low concentrations of ethanol (22-66 mM) markedly enhanced the peak amplitude, and especially the area, of the GABA/A/ component (GABA/A/-IPSP/C) in most CA1 pyramidal neurons. Ethanol had no significant effect on the peak amplitude or area of the pharmacologically isolated GABA/B/-inhibitory postsynaptic current (IPSC). These results provide new data showing that activation of GABAB receptors can obscure ethanol enhancement of GABA/A/ receptor function in hippocampus and suggest that similar methods of pharmacological isolation might be applied to other brain regions showing negative or mixed ethanol-GABA interactions.