Glial cell activation associated with inflammatory reaction may contribute to pathogenic processes of neurodegenerative disorders, through production of several cytotoxic molecules. We investigated the consequences of glial activation by interferon-gamma (IFN-gamma)/lipopolysaccharide (LPS) in rat midbrain slice cultures. Application of IFN-gamma followed by LPS caused dopaminergic cell death and accompanying increases in nitrite production and lactate dehydrogenase release. Aminoguanidine, an inhibitor of inducible nitric oxide synthase (iNOS), or SB203580, an inhibitor of p38 mitogen-activated protein kinase, prevented dopaminergic cell loss as well as nitrite production. SB203580 also suppressed expression of iNOS and cyclooxygenase-2 (COX-2) induced by IFN-gamma/LPS. A COX inhibitor indomethacin protected dopaminergic neurons from IFN-gamma/LPS-induced injury, whereas selective COX-2 inhibitors such as NS-398 and nimesulide did not. Notably, indomethacin was able to attenuate neurotoxicity of a nitric oxide (NO) donor. Neutralizing antibodies against tumour necrosis factor-alpha and interleukin-1beta did not inhibit dopaminergic cell death caused by IFN-gamma/LPS, although combined application of these antibodies blocked lactate dehydrogenase release and decrease in the number of non-dopaminergic neurons. These results indicate that iNOS-derived NO plays a crucial role in IFN-gamma/LPS-induced dopaminergic cell death, and that indomethacin exerts protective effect by mechanisms probably related to NO neurotoxicity rather than through COX inhibition.