Neonicotinoid insecticides are potent selective agonists of insect nicotinic acetylcholine receptors (nAChRs). Since their introduction in 1991, resistance to neonicotinoids has been slow to develop, but it is now established in some insect field populations such as the planthopper, Nilaparvata lugens, a major rice pest in many parts of Asia. We have reported recently the identification of a target-site mutation (Y151S) within two nAChR subunits (Nlalpha1 and Nlalpha3) from a laboratory-selected field population of N. lugens. In the present study, we have examined the influence of this mutation upon the functional properties of recombinant nAChRs expressed in Xenopus oocytes (as hybrid nAChRs, co-expressed with a rat beta2 subunit). The agonist potency of several nicotinic agonists has been examined, including all of the neonicotinoid insecticides that are currently licensed for either crop protection or animal health applications (acetamiprid, clothianidin, dinotefuran, imidacloprid, nitenpyram, thiacloprid and thiamethoxam). The Y151S mutation was found to have no significant effect on the maximal current (I(max)) observed with the endogenous agonist, acetylcholine. In contrast, a significant reduction in I(max) was observed for all neonicotinoids (the I(max) for mutant nAChRs ranged from 13 to 81% of that observed on wild-type receptors). In addition, nAChRs containing the Y151S mutation caused a significant rightward shift in agonist dose-response curves for all neonicotinoids, but of varying magnitude (shifts in EC(50) values ranged from 1.3 to 3.6-fold). The relationship between neonicotinoid structure and their potency on nAChRs containing the Y151S target-site mutation is discussed.