- INTRODUCTION: Glutamate neurotoxicity is determined by the balance between glutamate release within the brain and efflux of excess glutamate from the brain. Brain-to-blood efflux of glutamate is increased by decreasing the concentration of glutamate in blood. Little is known about the effect of hyperthermia on blood glutamate concentrations, and the effectiveness of blood glutamate–decreasing mechanisms in these conditions. Although hyperthermia is hypothesized to decrease blood glutamate concentrations by activation of stress mechanisms, blunting the stress response by blocking β-adrenergic receptors should prevent this decrease. Furthermore, during hyperthermia there should be a concurrent process of leakage of glutamate from muscle tissue into blood, resulting in a contradictory increase of blood glutamate concentrations. In this study we investigated the effects of hyperthermia on blood glutamate levels and studied the effects of the β-adrenergic receptor antagonist propranolol on stress-induced changes in glutamate levels. We then studied the effectiveness of the blood glutamate scavenger oxaloacetate on hyperthermia-induced increases of glutamate levels. MATERIALS AND METHODS: Twenty-four rats were randomly divided into 3 groups. Rats' body temperatures were increased (by 1°C every 40 minutes) from 37°C to 42°C. The first group received 1 mL per 100 g of isotonic saline (control). The second group received 1 mL per 100 g of 1M oxaloacetate when the temperature reached 39°C. The third group received 10 mg/kg of propranolol before initiation of the warming. RESULTS: Warming the rats from 37°C to 39°C decreased the blood glutamate levels in the control group (P < 0.01) and oxaloacetate treatment group (P < 0.0001), whereas further increases in temperature from 40°C to 42°C increased the blood glutamate levels (P < 0.01 and P < 0.0001, respectively). Pretreatment with propranolol prevented the decrease in blood glutamate concentrations seen in mild hyperthermia and did not affect the increase in blood glutamate levels seen at temperatures of 41°C and 42°C (P < 0.005). DISCUSSION: The results of this study demonstrated that hyperthermia leads to decreases in glutamate levels in the blood, presumably by activation of the sympathetic nervous system. Oxaloacetate, previously reported to reduce blood glutamate levels at 37°C, was ineffective at temperatures over 40°C. Propranolol pretreatment blunted the initial decrease in blood glutamate, and thereafter had no effect when compared with control and treatment groups. Understanding the mechanisms underlying glutamate regulation in the blood during states of hyperthermia and stress has important clinical implications in treating neurodegenerative conditions.