Microglia are well known to become activated during various kinds of neuropathological events. The factors that are responsible for the activation, however, are not fully determined. In the present study, L-Ser was shown to enhance production of nitric oxide (NO), interleukin-6 (IL-6) and tumor necrosis factor α (TNF α) by lipopolysaccharide (LPS)-stimulated cultured rat microglial cells. L-Ser, however, did not enhance the expression of mRNAs encoding inducible NO synthase, IL-6 and TNF α. On the other hand, astrocytes did not depend on L-Ser for release of IL-6 and TNF α. The expression of an enzyme 3-phosphoglycerate dehydrogenase (3PGDH), which is essential for L-Ser biosynthesis from a glycolytic intermediate 3-phosphoglycerate, was investigated. As revealed by Western blotting and immunocytochemical staining, 3PGDH-protein expression in vitro was the highest in astrocytes, intermediate in neurons and the lowest in microglial cells. Semiquantitative RT-PCR showed that microglial cells expressed 3PGDH-mRNA at a lower level than astrocytes. In frozen sections from rat forebrain, only astrocytes were immunoreactive for 3PGDH. The present study suggested that L-Ser is able to modulate microglial function mainly at the translation level because microglial cells cannot synthesize sufficient amount of L-Ser due to the scarce expression of 3PGDH. J. Neurosci. Res. 64:392–401, 2001. © 2001 Wiley-Liss, Inc.