Electrophysiological data suggest that alterations in the function of one glutamate receptor subtype may affect the function of other subtypes. Further, previous studies have demonstrated that NMDA receptor antagonists affect NMDA and kainate receptor expression in rat hippocampus. In order to address the mutual regulation of NMDA, AMPA, and kainate receptor expression in rat hippocampus, we conducted two experiments examining the effects of NMDA and non-NMDA glutamate receptor modulators on NMDA, AMPA, and kainate receptor expression using in situ hybridization and receptor autoradiography. NMDA receptor expression was preferentially affected by systemic treatments, as all drugs significantly altered [3H]MK-801 binding, and several drugs increased [3H]ifenprodil binding. GYKI52466 and aniracetam treatments resulted in changes in both [3H]ifenprodil binding and NR2B mRNA levels, consistent with the association of this subunit and binding site in vitro. There were more modest effects on AMPA and kainate receptor expression, even by direct antagonists. Together, these data suggest that ionotropic glutamate receptors interact at the level of expression. These data also suggest that drug regimens targeting one ionotropic glutamate receptor subtype may indirectly affect other subtypes, potentially producing unwanted side effects. (C) 2000 Wiley-Liss, Inc.