Modulation of dendrodendritic synapses by the noradrenergic system in the accessory olfactory bulb (AOB) plays a key role in the formation of memory in olfactory-mediated behaviors. We have recently shown that noradrenaline (NA) inhibits mitral cells by increasing gamma-aminobutyric acid inhibitory input onto mitral cells in the AOB, suggesting an excitatory action of NA on granule cells (GCs). Here, we show that NA (10 microM) elicits a long-lasting depolarization of GCs. This effect is mediated by activation of alpha(1)-adrenergic receptors as the depolarization is mimicked by phenylephrine (PE, 30 microM) and completely blocked by the alpha(1)-adrenergic receptor antagonist prazosin (300 nM). In addition to this depolarization, application of NA induced the appearance of a slow afterdepolarization (sADP) following a stimulus-elicited train of action potentials. Similarly, the group I metabotropic glutamate receptor (mGluR1) agonist DHPG (10-30 microM) also produced a depolarization of GCs and the appearance of a stimulus-induced sADP. The ionic and voltage dependence and sensitivity to blockers of the sADP suggest that it is mediated by the nonselective cationic conductance I(CAN). Thus the excitatory action resulting from the activation of these receptors could be mediated by a common transduction target. Surprisingly, the excitatory effect of PE on GCs was completely blocked by the mGluR1 antagonist LY367385 (100 microM). Conversely, the effect of DHPG was not antagonized by the alpha(1)-adrenergic receptor antagonist prazosin (300 nM). These results suggest that most of the noradrenergic effect on GCs in the AOB is mediated by potentiation of a basal activity of mGluR1s.