MK-801, an NMDA receptor antagonist administered intravenously or intrathecally to the L6-S1 spinal cord inhibited in a dose dependent manner the amplitude of isovolumetric bladder contractions evoked by electrical stimulation in the pontine micturition center (PMC) in urethane anesthetized rats. The mean threshold dose of MK-801 was 10 +/- 6 micrograms/kg i.v. and 10 +/- 1 micrograms i.t. Bladder contractions were completely inhibited at doses ranging from 300 to 3000 micrograms/kg i.v. and from 18 to 48 micrograms i.t. These data indicate that NMDA glutamatergic receptors play an important role in excitatory transmission in the descending pathway from the PMC to the spinal segmental circuitry involved in the control of the urinary bladder.