Glutamate receptor activated neuronal cell death is attributed to a massive influx of Ca(2+) and subsequent formation of reactive oxygen species (ROS) but the relative contribution of NMDA and non-NMDA sub-types of glutamate receptors in excitotoxicity is not known. In the present study, we have examined the role of NMDA and non-NMDA receptors in glutamate-induced neuronal injury in cortical slices from young (20+/-2 day) and adult (80+/-5 day) rats. Treatment of slices with glutamate receptor agonists NMDA, AMPA and KA elicited the formation of reactive oxygen species (ROS) and neuronal cell death. In young slices, NMDA receptor stimulation caused a higher ROS formation and neurotoxicity, but KA was more effective in producing ROS and cell death in adult slices. AMPA exhibited an intermediate effect on ROS formation and toxicity in both the age groups. A significant protection in glutamate mediated ROS formation and neurotoxicity was observed in presence of NMDA or/and non-NMDA receptors antagonists APV and NBQX, respectively. This further confirms the involvement of both NMDA and non-NMDA receptors in glutamate mediated neurotoxicity. In adult slices, we did not find positive correlation between ligand induced neurotoxicity and mitochondrial depolarization. Though, NMDA and KA stimulation produced differential effect on ROS formation and neurotoxicity in young and adult slices, the mitochondrial depolarization was higher and comparable on NMDA stimulation in both the age groups as compared to KA, suggesting that the mitochondrial depolarization may not be a good indicator for neurotoxicity. Our results demonstrate that both NMDA and non-NMDA sub-types of glutamate receptors are involved in glutamate mediated neurotoxicity but their relative contribution is highly dependent on the age of the animal.