The ATP-dependent uptake of L-glutamate into synaptic vesicles has been well characterized, implicating a key role for synaptic vesicles in glutamatergic neurotransmission. In the present study, we provide evidence that vesicular glutamate uptake is selectively inhibited by the peptide-containing halogenated ergot bromocriptine. It is the most potent inhibitor of the agents tested: the IC50 was determined to be 22 microM. The uptake was also inhibited by other ergopeptines such as ergotamine and ergocristine, but with less potency. Ergots devoid of the peptide moiety, however, such as ergonovine, lergotrile, and methysergide, had little or no effect. Although bromocriptine is known to elicit dopaminergic and serotonergic effects, its inhibitory effect on vesicular glutamate uptake was not mimicked by agents known to interact with dopamine and serotonin receptors. Kinetic data suggest that bromocriptine competes with glutamate for the glutamate binding site on the glutamate translocator. It is proposed that this inhibitor could be useful as a prototype probe in identifying and characterizing the vesicular glutamate translocator, as well as in developing a more specific inhibitor of the transport system.