Abstract Neuronal damage in the area postrema (AP) of adult Sprague-Dawley rats was induced by subcutaneous administration of monosodium glutamate (MSG; 9 mg/g b.wt.). Serotonin-immunoreactive (5-HT-IR) neurons were visualized in the AP 3 h or 7 days after control or MSG treatment. At 3 h post MSG, many 5-HT-IR neurons showed morphological signs of degeneration, such as, cytoplasmic vacuolization, chromatin clumping and dendritic hypertrophy. MSG treatment caused a 30% reduction of detectable AP 5-HT neurons after 7 days. We conclude that a subpopulation of serotonergic neurons in the AP is sensitive to the neuroexcitotoxic effect of systemic glutamate.