Mouse spinal neurons grown in tissue culture were used to study the membrane effects of the benzodiazepine flurazepam and the naturally occurring purine nucleoside inosine, which competes for benzodiazepine receptor sites in the central nervous system. Application of inosine elicited two types of transmitter-like membrane effects: a rapidly desensitizing excitatory response and a nondesensitizing inhibitory response. Flurazepam produced a similar excitatory response which showed cross-desensitization with the purine excitation. Flurazepam also blocked the inhibitory inosine response. The results provide electrophysiological evidence that an endogenous purine can activate two different conductances on spinal neurons and that flurazepam can activate one of the conductances and antagonize the other.