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We have identified a family of highly selective allosteric modulators of the group I metabotropic glutamate receptor subtype 5 (mGluR5). This family of closely related analogs exerts a spectrum of effects, ranging from positive to negative allosteric modulation, and includes compounds that do not themselves modulate mGluR5 agonist activity but rather prevent other family members from exerting their modulatory effects. 3,3'-Difluorobenzaldazine (DFB) has no agonist activity, but it acts as a selective positive allosteric modulator of human and rat mGluR5. DFB potentiates threshold responses to glutamate, quisqualate, and 3,5-dihydroxyphenylglycine in fluorometric Ca2+ assays 3- to 6-fold, with EC50 values in the 2 to 5 microM range, and at 10 to 100 microM, it shifts mGluR5 agonist concentration-response curves approximately 2-fold to the left. The analog 3,3'-dimethoxybenzaldazine (DMeOB) acts as a negative modulator of mGluR5 agonist activity, with an IC50 of 3 microM in fluorometric Ca2+ assays, whereas the analog 3,3'-dichlorobenzaldazine (DCB) does not exert any apparent modulatory effect on mGluR5 activity. However, DCB seems to act as an allosteric ligand with neutral cooperativity, preventing the positive allosteric modulation of mGluRs by DFB as well as the negative modulatory effect of DMeOB. None of these analogs affects binding of [3H]quisqualate to the orthosteric (glutamate) site, but they do inhibit [3H]3-methoxy-5-(2-pyridinylethynyl)pyridine binding to the site for 2-methyl-6-(phenylethynyl)-pyridine, a previously identified negative allosteric modulator. With the use of these compounds, we provide evidence that allosteric sites on GPCRs can respond to closely related ligands with a range of pharmacological activities from positive to negative modulation as well as to neutral competition of this modulation.