Norepinephrine is known to play an integral role in different aspects of behaviour, such as attention and arousal. It has also been implicated in the neurobiology of attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). The present study was undertaken to determine the differential effects of glutamate on norepinephrine release in hippocampal slices of several rat strains. Two of the strains used in this study model behavioural disorders i.e. spontaneously hypertensive rats (SHR) mimic the behavioural characteristics of ADHD and Wistar-Kyoto (WKY) rats have been used to model depression/anxiety-like behaviours. To achieve the aims of this study, an in vitro superfusion technique was used to determine glutamate-stimulated release of radioactively labelled norepinephrine in hippocampal slices. The results show (1) SHR and Wistar rats released significantly more [(3)H]norepinephrine in response to a 1-min pulse of glutamate (1 mM) than WKY, Sprague-Dawley and Long-Evans rats. (2) Glutamate-stimulated release of [(3)H]norepinephrine was reduced by the AMPA receptor antagonist, CNQX (1 muM), suggesting that AMPA receptors are involved. (3) Exposure of hippocampal slices to a second and third 1-min pulse of glutamate revealed significant decreases in the peaks of [(3)H]norepinephrine release suggesting internalization of AMPA receptors. The rate of AMPA receptor internalization was slower in SHR than in WKY. (4) The NMDA receptor antagonist, MK-801 (10 microM) increased glutamate-stimulated release of [(3)H]norepinephrine in SHR hippocampus. This effect was blocked by CNQX, suggesting that AMPA receptors were required for the NMDA effect and that there was an NMDA component of AMPA receptor internalization in SHR hippocampus which was not evident in WKY. The present findings reveal a novel NMDA component that influences AMPA receptor-mediated regulation of norepinephrine release in SHR hippocampus.