- Background: Isoflurane-anesthetized rats subjected to traumatic brain injury (TBI) show a transient reduction in blood L-glutamate levels. Having previously observed that isoproterenol produces a sustained decrease in blood glutamate levels in naive rats, we investigated the possible effects of nonselective and selective β1 and β2 adrenergic agonists and antagonists both on blood glutamate levels and on the neurological outcomes of rats subjected to TBI. Methods: Rats received either 10 mL/kg of isotonic saline 1 hour after TBI, 50 µg/kg of isoproterenol pretreatment 30 minutes before TBI, 10 mg/kg of propranolol pretreatment 60 minutes before TBI, 10 mg/kg of metoprolol pretreatment 60 minutes before TBI, or 10 mg/kg of butaxamine pretreatment 40 minutes before TBI and 10 minutes before pretreatment with 50 µg/kg isoproterenol or 10 mg/kg of propranolol 60 minutes after TBI. A neurological severity score (NSS) was measured at 1, 24, and 48 hours after TBI. Blood glutamate, blood glucose, mean arterial blood pressure, and heart rate were measured at the time of drug injection, at the time of TBI, 60 minutes after TBI, and 90 minutes after TBI. Results: Blood glutamate levels decreased spontaneously by 60 minutes after TBI in the control group (P<0.05), reverting to baseline levels by 90 minutes after TBI. A pretreatment with either 10 mg/kg of metoprolol 60 minutes before TBI or with 50 µg/kg of isoproterenol 30 minutes before TBI also reduced blood glutamate levels (P<0.05) both at 90 minutes after TBI and improved the NSS measured 24 and 48 hours after TBI in comparison with the control saline-treated group. However, a 10-mg/kg butoxamine pretreatment 40 minutes before TBI and 10 minutes before pretreatment with 50 µg/kg of isoproterenol or 10 mg/kg of propranolol 60 minutes before TBI neither affected blood glutamate levels across time after TBI nor caused any significant change in the NSS measured 24 and 48 hours after TBI in comparison with the control saline-treated group. A strong correlation (r 2=0.73) was demonstrated between the percent decrease in blood glutamate levels at 90 minutes after TBI and the percent improvement of NSS measured 24 hours after TBI. Conclusions: The results suggest that the transient blood glutamate reduction seen after TBI is the result of a stress response and of the activation of the sympathetic nervous system through the β2 adrenergic receptors, causing an increase of the brain-to-blood efflux of glutamate observed with excess brain glutamate levels after a brain insult. This strongly correlates with the neurological improvement observed 24 hours after TBI.