Microglia have been shown to be immunostimulated by inflammatory cytokines and produce a number of toxic mediators. Here we report that immunostimulated microglia can synergistically enhance the N-methyl-D- aspartate (NMDA) receptor-mediated excitotoxicity in rat cerebellar granule cells (CGC) in culture. Neurotoxicity was assessed by morphological examination and by measuring the release of lactate dehydrogenase and DNA fragmentation. Cultured microglia were immunostimulated by interferon-γ (200 U/ml) and lipopolysaccharides (10 μg/ml) and one or two days later they were used for co-culture with CGC. Co-culture of CGC with immunostimulated microglia resulted in a remarkable enhancement of the NMDA receptor-mediated death of CGC. This enhanced neurotoxicity was mimicked by the nitric oxide releaser 3-morpholinosydnonimine (SIN-1) or S-nitroso-N-acetylpenicillamine (SNAP). Superoxide dismutase and catalase, which stabilise NO by removing superoxide anion, ameliorated the potentiation of the NMDA-mediated death of CGC in co-culture with immunostimulated microglia, implying that reactions of NO with superoxide to form peroxynitrite can be implicated in the potentiated neurotoxicity. Our data indicate that immunostimulated microglia, which may involve in various neuropathologies, potentiate the NMDA receptor-mediated excitotoxicity in part through the expression of inducible nitric oxide synthase.