The group 1 metabotropic glutamate receptor, mGluR5, is found on the cell surface as well as on intracellular membranes where it can mediate both overlapping and unique signaling effects. Previously we have shown that glutamate activates intracellular mGluR5 by entry through sodium-dependent transporters and/or cystine glutamate exchangers. Calibrated antibody labelling suggests that the glutamate concentration within neurons is quite high (~10 mM) raising the question as to whether intracellular mGluR5 is maximally activated at all times or whether a different ligand might be responsible for receptor activation. To address this issue, we used cellular, optical and molecular techniques to show that intracellular glutamate is largely sequestered in mitochondria; that the glutamate concentration necessary to activate intracellular mGluR5 is about ten-fold higher than what is necessary to activate cell surface mGluR5; and uncaging caged glutamate within neurons can directly activate the receptor. Thus these studies further the concept that glutamate itself serves as the ligand for intracellular mGluR5.