Liberation of zinc from intracellular stores contributes to oxidant-induced neuronal injury. However, little is known regarding how endogenous oxidant systems regulate intracellular free zinc ([Zn(2+)](i)). Here we simultaneously imaged [Ca(2+)](i) and [Zn(2+)](i) to study acute [Zn(2+)](i) changes in cultured rat forebrain neurons after glutamate receptor activation. Neurons were loaded with fura-2FF and FluoZin-3 to follow [Ca(2+)](i) and [Zn(2+)](i), respectively. Neurons treated with glutamate (100 microM) for 10 min gave large Ca(2+) responses that did not recover after termination of the glutamate stimulus. Glutamate also increased [Zn(2+)](i), however glutamate-induced [Zn(2+)](i) changes were completely dependent on Ca(2+) entry, appeared to arise entirely from internal stores, and were substantially reduced by co-application of the membrane-permeant chelator TPEN during the glutamate treatment. Pharmacological maneuvers revealed that a number of endogenous oxidant producing systems, including nitric oxide synthase, phospholipase A(2), and mitochondria all contributed to glutamate-induced [Zn(2+)](i) changes. We found no evidence that mitochondria buffered [Zn(2+)](i) during acute glutamate receptor activation. We conclude that glutamate-induced [Zn(2+)](i) transients are caused in part by [Ca(2+)](i)-induced reactive oxygen species that arises from both cytosolic and mitochondrial sources.