- Zn(2+) is coreleased with glutamate from mossy fiber terminals and can influence synaptic function. Here, we demonstrate that synaptically released Zn(2+) activates a selective postsynaptic Zn(2+)-sensing receptor (ZnR) in the CA3 region of the hippocampus. ZnR activation induced intracellular release of Ca(2+), as well as phosphorylation of extracellular-regulated kinase and Ca(2+)/calmodulin kinase II. Blockade of synaptic transmission by tetrodotoxin or CdCl inhibited the ZnR-mediated Ca(2+) rises. The responses mediated by ZnR were largely attenuated by the extracellular Zn(2+) chelator, CaEDTA, and in slices from mice lacking vesicular Zn(2+), suggesting that synaptically released Zn(2+) triggers the metabotropic activity. Knockdown of the expression of the orphan G-protein-coupled receptor 39 (GPR39) attenuated ZnR activity in a neuronal cell line. Importantly, we observed widespread GPR39 labeling in CA3 neurons, suggesting a role for this receptor in mediating ZnR signaling in the hippocampus. Our results describe a unique role for synaptic Zn(2+) acting as the physiological ligand of a metabotropic receptor and provide a novel pathway by which synaptic Zn(2+) can regulate neuronal function.