Neuronal damage in glutaryl-CoA dehydrogenase deficiency (GDD) has previously been addressed to N-methyl-d-aspartate (NMDA) receptor-mediated neurotoxicity of the accumulating neurotoxic metabolite 3-hydroxyglutarate. However, acute encephalopathic crises in GDD patients are typically precipitated by febrile illness or even routine vaccinations, suggesting a potentiating role of inflammatory cytokines. In the present study we investigated the effect of interleukin-1β and interferon-γ on 3-hydroxyglutarate toxicity in rat cortical astrocyte cultures and neonatal rat hippocampal cultures. A cotreatment of both culture systems with interleukin-1β and interferon-γ induced the protein expression of astrocytic inducible nitric oxide synthase (iNOS), resulting in increased nitric oxide (NO) production. Cytokine pretreatment alone had no effect on cell viability but potentiated 3-hydroxyglutarate neurotoxicity. NOS inhibition by aminoguanidine and L-NAME prevented an iNOS-mediated potentiation of 3-hydroxyglutarate neurotoxicity but failed to protect neurons against 3-hydroxyglutarate alone. In contrast, superoxide dismutase/catalase as well as MK-801 prevented toxicity of 3-hydroxyglutarate alone as well as its potentiation by iNOS, supporting a central role of NMDA receptor stimulation with subsequently increased superoxide anion production. It is concluded that the potentiation of 3-hydroxyglutarate neurotoxicity is most probably due to an induction of astrocytic iNOS and concomitantly increased NO production, enabling enhanced peroxynitrite formation. Thus, we provide evidence for a neuroimmunological approach to the precipitation of acute encephalopathic crises in GDD by inflammatory cytokines.