Estrogen has demonstrated a neuroprotective role in a rat model of glutamate excitotoxicity and other neurodegenerative disorders. We studied the effect of 17beta-estradiol on glutamate-induced increases in amino acids levels (aspartate, histidine, taurine and GABA) in the rat cortex. Local perfusion of glutamate produced a transient increase of aspartate, histidine, taurine and GABA in the extracellular fluid. Pretreatment with 17beta-estradiol significantly reduced the increases of taurine and moderately attenuated that of histidine, whereas aspartate and GABA releases were not modified. The effect of 17beta-estradiol on histidine release was reversed by the antiestrogen tamoxifen, suggesting a receptor-dependent mechanism. Good correlations between the volumes of the glutamate-induced lesions and the extracellular concentrations of taurine and aspartate were observed. These findings suggest that the attenuation of the glutamate-induced release of taurine by 17beta-estradiol may participate in the neuroprotective effects of 17beta-estradiol and that increased levels of aspartate and taurine are markers for the severity of the glutamate-induced cortical lesions.