Coactivation of metabotropic glutamate receptors (mGluRs) and beta-adrenergic receptors causes a synergistic increase in cAMP formation in the rat hippocampus. Increases in cAMP are known to have many actions in the hippocampus via activation of cAMP-dependent protein kinase. We now report that coactivation of mGluRs and beta-adrenergic receptors induces an acute depression of EPSCs at the Schaffer collateral-CA1 synapse. Interestingly, this depression of EPSCs is dependent upon increases in cAMP levels but independent of protein kinase activity. A series of studies suggests that cAMP-mediated depression of EPSCs is dependent on metabolism of cAMP and release of adenosine or 5'-AMP into the extracellular space with resultant activation of presynaptic adenosine receptors. These studies suggest that cAMP can have local hormone-like effects in the hippocampal formation which are independent of cAMP-dependent protein kinase.