Both kainic acid (KA) and N-methyl-d-aspartatic acid (NMDA) depolarize luminosity-type horizontal cells (L-type H cells) in normal turtle retina. The presence of both NMDA and non-NMDA receptors for excitatory amino acids (EAAs) on these cells was highlighted by an unusual effect of the noncompetitive NMDA-antagonist, MK-801. In retinas that had been exposed to MK-801, the action of NMDA was irreversibly altered to one of hyperpolarization, while the depolarizing effect of KA was unaltered. The aim of the present study was to further characterize these receptors on L-type H cells and to extend the investigation to color-opponent H cells (C-type H cells). Intracellular recording was used to study the effects of KA, NMDA, MK-801, the competitive NMDA antagonists, 2-amino-5-phosphonopentanoic acid (AP5) and 2-amino-7-phosphonoheptanoic acid (AP7), and the nonspecific EAA antagonist, kynurenic acid (KYN) on the light responses of L-type and C-type H cells in turtle retina. The effects of combinations of these drugs were also studied. In L-type H cells the agonists caused depolarization and loss of light response, KYN caused hyperpolarization and loss of light response, and MK-801, AP5 or AP7 had no direct effect. However, application of NMDA following MK-801, AP5 or AP7, but not KYN, caused hyperpolarization and loss of light response. The depolarizing effect of KA was unaltered by these antagonists. These data confirm the presence of an unusual NMDA receptor on L-type H cells. In the case of red\green C-type H cells, application of KA caused loss of responses to both red and green light, with loss of green responses preceding loss of red responses. NMDA initially removed responses to both red and green light. The most striking effect of NMDA was seen during early washout where the responses to red were reversed (hyperpolarizing). These responses eventually recovered their normal polarity. These results suggest that the depolarizing response of C-type H cells to red light is mediated by L-type H cells, but not via inhibition of the excitatory input from green cones to C-type H cells.