A novel antifungal amino acid antibiotic, TAN-950 A ([S]-2-amino-3-(2,5-dihydro-5-oxo-4-isoxazolyl)propanoic acid), was found to have affinity for three excitatory amino acid (EAA) receptors and to inhibit [3H]alpha-amino-3-hydroxy-5-methylisoxazole-4-propionic acid ([3H]AMPA), [3H]kainate and [3H]3-(2-carboxypiperazin-4-yl)propyl-1-phosphonic acid ([3H]CPP) binding competitively. It caused excitation of rat hippocampal CA1 neurons in vitro, an effect that was antagonized by an AMPA/kainate antagonist, 6,7-dinitroquinoxaline-2,3-dione (DNQX). Chemical modification of TAN-950 A brought about a large change in its pharmacological activity. Alkylation at the C-3 position of the isoxazolone ring markedly increased the ability to elicite neuronal firing. This agonistic effect was also antagonized by DNQX. The (R) enantiomer of TAN-950 A had increased selectivity for the N-methyl-D-aspartate (NMDA) receptor subtype. This selectivity was further enhanced by removal of the methylene group from the amino acid moiety. The most potent NMDA agonistic activity was observed with [R]-2-amino-2-(2,5-dihydro-3-methyl-5-oxo-4-isoxazolyl)acetic acid. These derivatives of TAN-950 A might be useful agents for investigating the pharmacological and physiological roles of EAA receptors.