GABA(A) receptors are composed predominantly of alphabetagamma receptors, which mediate primarily synaptic inhibition, and alphabetadelta receptors, which mediate primarily extrasynaptic inhibition. At saturating GABA concentrations, the barbiturate pentobarbital substantially increased the amplitude and desensitization of the alpha1beta3delta receptor but not the alpha1beta3gamma2L receptor currents. To explore the structural domains of the delta subunit that are involved in pentobarbital potentiation and increased desensitization of alpha1beta3delta currents, chimeric cDNAs were constructed by progressive replacement of gamma2L subunit sequence with a delta subunit sequence or a delta subunit sequence with a gamma2L subunit sequence, and HEK293T cells were co-transfected with alpha1 and beta3 subunits or alpha1 and beta3 subunits and a gamma2L, delta, or chimeric subunit. Currents evoked by a saturating concentration of GABA or by co-application of GABA and pentobarbital were recorded using the patch clamp technique. By comparing the extent of enhancement and changes in kinetic properties produced by pentobarbital among chimeric and wild type receptors, we concluded that although potentiation of alpha1beta3delta currents by pentobarbital required the delta subunit sequence from the N terminus to proline 241 in the first transmembrane domain (M1), increasing desensitization of alpha1beta3delta currents required a delta subunit sequence from the N terminus to isoleucine 235 in M1. These findings suggest that the delta subunit N terminus and N-terminal portion of the M1 domain are, at least in part, involved in transduction of the allosteric effect of pentobarbital to enhance alpha1beta3delta currents and that this effect involves a distinct but overlapping structural domain from that involved in altering desensitization.