Glutamate activates a family of receptors, known as metabotropic glutamate receptors (mGluRs), that are coupled to various second messenger systems through G proteins. All mGluR subtypes characterized to date in rat brain slices are activated by the glutamate analogue 1-aminocyclopentane-1S,3R-dicarboxylic acid (1S,3R-ACPD). However, few agonists are available that selectively activate specific mGluR subtypes. We report that the glutamate analogue (R,S)-4-bromohomoibotenate (BrHI) stimulates phosphoinositide hydrolysis in rat cerebral cortical slices in a concentration-dependent manner (EC50 = 190 microM). The response to BrHI is stereoselective and is not blocked by ionotropic glutamate receptor antagonists. It is interesting that the responses to BrHI and 1S,3R-ACPD are completely additive, suggesting that these responses are mediated by different receptor subtypes. Consistent with this, the response to BrHI is insensitive to L-2-amino-3-phosphonopropionic acid (L-AP3), whereas the response to 1S,3R-ACPD is partially blocked by L-AP3. BrHI does not activate metabotropic receptors coupled to changes in cyclic AMP accumulation or activation of phospholipase D. Thus, BrHI seems to activate specifically a phosphoinositide hydrolysis-linked mGluR that is insensitive to 1S,3R-ACPD. This compound may prove useful as a tool for elucidating the roles of different mGluR subtypes in mammalian brain.