The novel drug lubeluzole, but not its (-)-R-isomer, protects against sensorimotor deficits provoked by photochemical stroke in rats. We studied the mechanism of protection of lubeluzole against glutamate toxicity in primary hippocampal cell cultures. In a model for glutamate antagonism, i.e., treatment of the cultures with compound during the glutamate trigger, lubeluzole was not protective. In contrast, after prolonged pretreatment, i.e., administration of compound to the culture for 7 days before glutamate, lubeluzole was neuroprotective. It had an IC50 of 48 nM and its R-isomer was nine times less active. Under these conditions, lubeluzole inhibited glutamate-stimulated guanosine 3',5'-cyclic monophosphate production (IC50 37 nM). Again the R-isomer was seven times less active. The compounds did not affect nitric oxide synthase activity, guanylate cyclase activity or arginine uptake. After prolonged pretreatment, lubeluzole attenuated citrulline production in the culture, which could not be compensated for by excess arginine. Because prolonged lubeluzole treatment does not inhibit glutamate-activated [Ca+2]i rise in these cultures, the findings may indicate that expression of nitric oxide synthase or levels of its cofactors were reduced. Treatment of C6 glioma cells with lubeluzole did not affect lipopolysaccharide/gamma interferon induced guanosine 3',5'-cyclic monophosphate levels, suggesting that lubeluzole does not inhibit the glial nitric oxide synthase pathway. In conclusion, the long-term neuroprotective property of lubeluzole against glutamate toxicity in hippocampal cultures is reflected by the fact of interference with the glutamateactivated nitric oxide synthase pathway. Prolonged treatment may reduce expression of nitric oxide synthase or levels of its cofactors.