Oxidative stress has been suggested as a mechanism contributing to neuronal death induced by hypoglycemia, and an early production of reactive species (RS) during the hypoglycemic episode has been observed. However, the sources of reactive oxygen (ROS) and nitrogen (RNS) species have not been fully identified. In the present study we have examined the contribution of various enzymatic pathways to RS production and neuronal death induced by glucose deprivation (GD) in hippocampal cultures. We have observed a rapid increase in RS during GD, which depends on the activation of NMDA and non-NMDA receptors and on the influx of calcium from the extracellular space. Accordingly, intracellular calcium concentration [Ca2+](i) progressively increases more than 30-fold during the GD period. It was observed that superoxide production through the activation of the calcium-dependent enzymes, phospholipase A(2) (cPLA(2)) and xanthine oxidase (XaO), contributes to neuronal damage, while nitric oxide synthase (NOS) is apparently not involved. Inhibition of cPLA(2) decreased RS at early times of GD whereas inhibition of XaO diminished RS at more delayed times. The antioxidants trolox and ebselen also showed a protective effect against neuronal death and diminished RS generation. Inhibition of NADPH oxidase also contributed to the early generation of superoxide. Taking together, the present results suggest that the early activation of calcium-dependent ROS producing pathways is involved in neuronal death associated with glucose deprivation. (C) 2010 IBRO. Published by Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.