CARNOSINE is a dipeptide which is highly concentrated in mammalian olfactory sensory neurons along with zinc and/or copper, and glutamate. Although carnosine has been proposed as a neurotransmitter or neuromodulator, no specific function for carnosine has been identified. We used whole-cell current- and voltage-clamp recording to examine the direct effects and neuromodulatory actions of carnosine on rat olfactory bulb neurons in primary culture. Carnosine did not evoke a membrane current or affect currents evoked by glutamate, GABA or glycine. Copper and zinc inhibited NMDA and GABA receptor-mediated currents and inhibited synaptic transmission. Carnosine prevented the actions of copper and reduced the effects of zinc. These results suggest that carnosine may indirectly influence neuronal excitability by modulating the effects of zinc and copper.