We examined the properties of [Ca(2+)](i) changes that were evoked by backpropagating action potentials in pyramidal neurons in hippocampal slices from the rat. In the presence of the metabotropic glutamate receptor (mGluR) agonists t-ACPD, DHPG, or CHPG, spikes caused Ca(2+) waves that initiated in the proximal apical dendrites and spread over this region and in the soma. Consistent with previously described synaptic responses (Nakamura et al., 1999a), pharmacological experiments established that the waves were attributable to Ca(2+) release from internal stores mediated by the synergistic effect of receptor-mobilized inositol 1,4, 5-trisphosphate (IP(3)) and spike-evoked Ca(2+). The amplitude of the changes reached several micromoles per liter when detected with the low-affinity indicators fura-6F, fura-2-FF, or furaptra. Repetitive brief spike trains at 30-60 sec intervals generated increases of constant amplitude. However, trains at intervals of 10-20 sec evoked smaller increases, suggesting that the stores take 20-30 sec to refill. Release evoked by mGluR agonists was blocked by MCPG, AIDA, 4-CPG, MPEP, and LY367385, a profile consistent with the primacy of group I receptors. At threshold agonist concentrations the release was evoked only in the dendrites; threshold antagonist concentrations were effective only in the soma. Carbachol and 5-HT evoked release with the same spatial distribution as t-ACPD, suggesting that the distribution of neurotransmitter receptors was not responsible for the restricted range of regenerative release. Intracellular BAPTA and EGTA were approximately equally effective in blocking release. Extracellular Cd(2+) blocked release, but no single selective Ca(2+) channel blocker prevented release. These results suggest that IP(3) receptors are not associated closely with specific Ca(2+) channels and are not close to each other.