Astrocytes release glutamate upon activation of various GPCRs to exert important roles in synaptic functions. However, the molecular mechanism of release has been controversial. Here, we report two kinetically distinct modes of nonvesicular, channel-mediated glutamate release. The fast mode requires activation of G(αi), dissociation of G(βγ), and subsequent opening of glutamate-permeable, two-pore domain potassium channel TREK-1 through direct interaction between G(βγ) and N terminus of TREK-1. The slow mode is Ca(2+) dependent and requires G(αq) activation and opening of glutamate-permeable, Ca(2+)-activated anion channel Best1. Ultrastructural analyses demonstrate that TREK-1 is preferentially localized at cell body and processes, whereas Best1 is mostly found in microdomains of astrocytes near synapses. Diffusion modeling predicts that the fast mode can target neuronal mGluR with peak glutamate concentration of 100 μM, whereas slow mode targets neuronal NMDA receptors at around 1 μM. Our results reveal two distinct sources of astrocytic glutamate that can differentially influence neighboring neurons. Copyright © 2012 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.