Abstract Incubated slices of young rat cerebellum were used to examine the possible relationship between the neurotoxic effects of excitatory amino acids and their ability to elicit large increases in the levels of cyclic GMP in this tissue. No cell death was detectable following exposure of the slices to the guanylate cyclase activator, nitroprusside (up to 0.3 mM), the phosphodiesterase inhibitor, isobutylmethylxanthine (0.5 mM), or to cyclic GMP (10 mM) and its dibutyryl and 8-bromo derivatives (0.5 mM). However, incubation of the slices with the guanylate cyclase inhibitors, N-methylhydroxylamine and hydroxylamine (0.1–1 mM), methylene blue (10–100μM), ethacrynic acid (300 μM) and retinol (1 mM) caused a progressive destruction of the differentiating cells. The damage induced by N-methylhydroxylamine and hydroxylamine was inhibited by nitroprusside, cyclic GMP and isobutylmethylxanthine. It could also be reduced by lowering the partial pressure of oxygen, by oxygen radical scavenging enzymes and by omitting Ca 2+ from the medium. Oxygen radical generating enzyme systems mimicked the pattern of toxicity of the guanylate cyclase inhibitors but their effects were not reduced by nitroprusside or omission of Ca 2+. The results indicate that guanylate cyclase/cyclic GMP does not mediate amino acid neurotoxicity but, instead, may be part of a protective mechanism against oxygen free radicals.