It has been previously reported that the excitatory amino acid, N-methyl-D-aspartic acid (NMDA), elicits prompt increases in serum luteinizing hormone (LH) levels in young male rats. The present studies were carried out to determine whether the effects of NMDA on LH were mediated by the release of LHRH from the hypothalamus. We also examined whether NMDA-sensitive neuronal pathways interacted with the endogenous opioid system regulating LHRH release and the ontogeny of NMDA-evoked increases in serum LH. We found that the age-response curve for NMDA-induced increases in LH was an inverted U; at early ages (10 and 15 days) the amino acid was marginally effective in increasing LH levels, it became maximally effective from post-natal days 20-40 and thereafter rapidly lost its efficacy such that it was virtually inactive in adult animals. Dose-response curves revealed that adult animals were more than 10-fold less sensitive to NMDA than their younger counterparts. Our studies also demonstrated that NMDA increased LH via a direct effect on the hypothalamic release of LHRH since a potent LHRH antagonist competitively inhibited the effects of NMDA. Finally, we observed that morphine competitively inhibited the effects of NMDA on LH release, suggesting a relationship between NMDA-sensitive neuronal pathways and those endogenous opioid-containing systems which are known to regulate LH release.