One hour incubation of rat cortical slices in a medium without oxygen and glucose (oxygen-glucose deprivation, OGD) increased S100B release to 6.53 +/- A 0.3 ng/ml/mg protein from its control value of 3.61 +/- A 0.2 ng/ml/mg protein. When these slices were then transferred to a medium containing oxygen and glucose (reoxygenation, REO), S100B release rose to 344 % of its control value. REO also caused 192 % increase in lactate dehydrogenase (LDH) leakage. Glutamate added at millimolar concentration into the medium decreased OGD or REO-induced S100B release and REO-induced LDH leakage. Alpha-ketoglutarate, a metabolic product of glutamate, was found to be as effective as glutamate in decreasing the S100B and LDH outputs. Similarly lactate, 2-ketobutyrate and ethyl pyruvate, a lipophilic derivative of pyruvate, also exerted a glutamate-like effect on S100B and LDH outputs. Preincubation with menadione, which produces H2O2 intracellularly, significantly increased S100B and LDH levels in normoxic medium. All drugs tested in the present study, with the exception of pyruvate, showed a complete protection against menadione preincubation. Additionally, each OGD-REO, menadione or H2O2-induced mitochondrial energy impairments determined by 2,3,5-triphenyltetrazolium chloride (TTC) staining and OGD-REO or menadione-induced increases in reactive oxygen substances (ROS) determined by 2,7-dichlorofluorescin diacetate (DCFH-DA) were also recovered by glutamate. Interestingly, H2O2-induced increase in fluorescence intensity derived from DCFH-DA in a slice-free physiological medium was attenuated significantly by glutamate and alpha-keto acids. All these drug actions support the conclusion that high glutamate, such as alpha-ketoglutarate and other keto acids, protects the slices against OGD- and REO-induced S100B and LDH outputs probably by scavenging ROS in addition to its energy substrate metabolite property.