Abstract: Ion flux through native N-methyl-d-aspartate (NMDA) receptors is inhibited by behaviorally relevant concentrations of ethanol (10–100 mM) in a variety of neuronal preparations. However, in animal tissues, it is often difficult to determine accurately which NMDA receptor subunits are responsible for the observed effect. In this study, human embryonic kidney 293 (HEK 293) cells normally devoid of NMDA receptors were transiently transfected with cDNA expression plasmids coding for specific rat NMDA receptor subunits. Brief application of an NMDA/glycine solution to cells markedly increased intracellular calcium in cells transfected with NR1/NR2A, NR1/NR2B, or NR1/NR2A/NR2B as measured by fura-2 calcium imaging. This increase was both NMDA- and glycine-dependent and was inhibited by competitive and noncompetitive NMDA antagonists, including 2-amino-5-phosphopentanoic acid and MK-801. The NR2B-selective antagonist ifenprodil inhibited responses in cells transfected with NR1/NR2B or NR1/NR2A/NR2B, but not NR1/NR2A subunits. Increasing the transfection ratio of NR2B versus NR2A subunit in NR1/NR2A/NR2B-transfected cells greatly increased their ifenprodil sensitivity. Acute exposure to ethanol (25–100 mM) inhibited the NMDA-mediated increase in intracellular calcium in a dose-dependent manner without affecting basal calcium concentrations. There were no statistically significant differences in ethanol's potency or maximal inhibition between any of the subunit combinations tested. HEK 293 cells transfected with NR1/NR2A/NR2B subunits showed an enhanced sensitivity to ifenprodil following a 24-h exposure to concentrations of ethanol of 50 mM and greater. The enhanced ifenprodil sensitivity following ethanol exposure was not associated with changes in NR1, NR2A, or NR2B immunoreactivity. In contrast to results obtained in transfected HEK 293 cells, no effect of chronic ethanol was observed in oocytes expressing NR1/NR2A/NR2B subunits. These results demonstrate that recombinant NMDA receptors expressed in HEK 293 cells form functional receptors that, like native receptors, are sensitive to modulation by both acute and chronic ethanol treatment.