The presence of group III metabotropic glutamate receptors on GABAergic terminals in the supraoptic nucleus suggests that the level of glutamate in the extracellular space may regulate synaptic strength at inhibitory synapses. To test this hypothesis we examined the consequences of increasing ambient glutamate on GABA-mediated synaptic activity in supraoptic neurons. The concentration of the excitatory amino acid in the extracellular space was increased pharmacologically by blocking glutamate transporters. Inhibition of the astrocyte-specific GLT-1 glutamate transporter led to a reversible decrease in evoked inhibitory postsynaptic current amplitude. This modulation had a presynaptic origin as revealed by analysis of paired-pulse ratio and miniature inhibitory currents. Furthermore, blocking group III metabotropic glutamate receptors with the specific antagonist MAP4 prevented the depression of GABAergic transmission induced by glutamate transporter blockade. Thus, presynaptic metabotropic glutamate receptors located on inhibitory terminals in the supraoptic nucleus appear to sense changes in ambient glutamate and modify GABA release accordingly. However, it seems that such changes need to reach a certain magnitude because the discrete deficit in glutamate clearance which occurs in the supraoptic nucleus of lactating rats is not sufficient to modulate GABA-mediated transmission. These results suggest that ambient glutamate contributes to the modulation of synaptic efficacy not only at glutamatergic synapses but also at inhibitory GABAergic synapses.