The effect of glutamate on frog crista ampullaris was investigated in order to assess the potential role of this agent as an afferent transmitter in inner ear organs. Intracellular recordings from single afferent axons in the isolated labyrinth showed that, after blocking synaptic transmission with high concentrations of Mg2+, microinjections of glutamate elicit a dose-dependent postsynaptic depolarization. The amplitude of depolarization was reduced dose-dependently by the competitive non-NMDA receptor antagonist 6-cyano-7-nitroquinoxaline-2,3-dione. When Na+ concentration in the bath was progressively reduced, depolarization decreased gradually and disappeared almost completely in Na+-free Ringer. On the contrary, complete substitution of Ca2+ ions in the bath was without apparent effects. These results indicate that the postsynaptic depolarization induced by glutamate in frog semicircular canals involves the activation of non-NMDA amino acid receptors.