Abstract We investigated glutamate receptor-mediated neurotoxicity in vivo by means of infusing three specific agonists for non-NMDA receptors (acromelic acid A (ACRO), kainic acid and 1-amino-3-hydroxy-5-methyl-4-isoxazole propionic acid (AMPA)) into the adult rat spinal subarachnoid space. ACRO induced long-lasting pure motor, rigid-spastic paraparesis in a dose-dependent manner (EC 50: 220 pmol/h) that was accompanied by selective degeneration of spinal interneurons; leaving large anterior horn cells intact. Kainate and AMPA induced paraplegia but with relatively non-selective neuronal damage when given in doses more than 40-fold larger than those required for ACRO. When AMPA (> 100 nmol/h) was infused continuously using a mini-osmotic pump for more than 2 days, rats displayed progressive changes in motor behavior due to extensive damage in the caudal spinal cord where small neurons in the dorsal horns were the most vulnerable. Co-administration of 6-cyano-7-nitroquinoxaline-2,3-dione (CNQX) specifically prevented neurotoxicity, suggesting a non-NMDA receptor-mediated mechanism. These results indicate that the non-NMDA receptor is heterogeneous, mediating neuronal damage with different selectivity. It is also suggested that chronic activation of glutamate receptors is capable of inducing slowly progressive neuronal death, which suggests relevance to the pathogenesis of ALS.