The metabotropic glutamate receptor 5 (mGluR5) exhibits a rapid loss of receptor responsiveness to prolonged or repeated agonist exposure. This receptor desensitization has been seen in a variety of native and recombinant systems, and is thought to result from receptor-mediated, protein kinase C (PKC)-dependent phosphorylation of the receptor, uncoupling it from the G protein in a negative feedback regulation. We have investigated the rapid PKC-mediated desensitization of mGluR5 in cortical cultured astrocytes by measuring downstream signals from activation of mGluR5. These include activation of phosphoinositide (PI) hydrolysis, intracellular calcium transients, and extracellular signal-regulated kinase 2 (ERK2) phosphorylation. We present evidence that PKC plays an important role in rapid desensitization of PI hydrolysis and calcium signaling, but not in ERK2 phosphorylation. This differential regulation of mGluR5-mediated responses suggests divergent signaling and regulatory pathways which may be important mechanisms for dynamic integration of signal cascades.