The synaptic complex formed by the cone photoreceptor pedicles and the dendrites of horizontal cells in the teleost retina undergoes structural changes during light adaptation. Numerous spinules are formed by the terminal dendrites, and they are subsequently retracted during dark adaptation. In a retina kept under continuous illumination, the retraction process can be initiated by analogues of the neurotransmitter glutamate acting at AMPA/kainate receptors. On the other hand, the retraction process depends on calcium influx and the subsequent activation of CaMkII. We show here that the retraction of spinules induced by AMPA or kainate is not impaired in the presence of cobalt, making an involvement of voltage-gated calcium channels unlikely. Using calcium imaging techniques with isolated horizontal cells, we demonstrate that AMPA and kainate, but not NMDA, increase [Ca2+]i in the presence of nicardipine, caffeine and thapsigargin. The increase of [Ca2+]i under these conditions depends on [Ca2+]o and on the agonist in a dose-dependent manner, suggesting that the increase of [Ca2+]i is largely due to calcium influx through the agonist-gated channel. Pharmacological studies were performed to determine whether AMPA- and/or kainate-preferring receptors mediate the calcium influx. The AMPA-preferring receptor antagonist LY303070 blocked glutamate- and kainate-evoked increases of [Ca2+]i in a concentration-dependent manner, indicating that kainate-preferring receptors contributed little or nothing to the observed [Ca2+]i increase. This was supported by experiments where cyclothiazide (which blocks the desensitization of AMPA receptors) and concanavalin A (which potentiates responses mediated by kainate receptors) were applied. In all cases, LY303070 blocked the agonist-evoked increase of [Ca2+]i. The presence of AMPA-preferring receptors with high Ca2+ permeability on horizontal cells was also supported by measuring agonist-induced currents using whole-cell recording techniques. Furthermore, LY303070 was able to impair the retraction of spinules during dark adaption in the in vivo situation.