Glutamate transporters are vulnerable to oxidants resulting in reduced uptake function. We have studied the effects of beta-amyloid(25-35) (beta A(25-35)) on [(3)H]-glutamate uptake on cortical neuron or astrocyte cultures in comparison with a scrambled peptide (SCR) and dihydrokainic acid (DHK), a prototypic uptake inhibitor. beta A(25-35) was more potent than DHK in inhibiting glutamate uptake and the effects of both were more marked on astrocytes than on neurons. At 24 h, beta A(25-35) dose-dependently (0.5-15 microM) increased glutamate levels in media from neuron cultures. DHK only enhanced extracellular glutamate at the highest concentration tested (2500 microM). beta A(25-35) induced gradual neurotoxicity (0.1-50 microM) over time. Exposure to beta A(25-35) resulted in increased uptake in astrocytes (0.25-5 microM) and neurons (0.5-15 microM) surviving its toxic effects. However, exposure to DHK (2.5-2500 microM) did not induce neurotoxicity nor modulated uptake. These results indicate that, while inhibition of glutamate uptake may be involved in the neurotoxic effects of beta A(25-35), enhancement of uptake may be a survival mechanism following exposure to beta A(25-35).