The chemokine CXCL10 and its receptor CXCR3 are implicated in various CNS pathologies since interference with CXCL10/CXCR3 signaling alters the onset and progression in various CNS disease models. However, the mechanism and cell-types involved in CXCL10/CXCR3 signaling under pathological conditions are far from understood. Here, we investigated the potential role for CXCL10/CXCR3 signaling in neuronal cell death and glia activation in response to N-methyl-D-aspartic acid (NMDA)-induced excitotoxicity in mouse organotypic hippocampal slice cultures (OHSCs). Our findings demonstrate that astrocytes express CXCL10 in response to excitotoxicity. Experiments in OHSCs derived from CXCL10-deficient (CXCL10(-/-)) and CXCR3-deficient (CXCR3(-/-)) revealed that in the absence of CXCL10 or CXCR3, neuronal cell death in the CA1 and CA3 regions was diminished after NMDA-treatment when compared to wild type OHSCs. In contrast, neuronal cell death in the DG region was enhanced in both CXCL10(-/-) and CXCR3(-/-) OHSCs in response to a high (50 mu M) NMDA-concentration. Moreover, we show that in the absence of microglia the differential changes in neuronal vulnerability between CXCR3(-/-) and wild type OHSCs are fully abrogated and therefore a prominent role for microglia in this process is suggested. Taken together, our results identify a region-specific role for CXCL10/CXCR3 signaling in neuron-glia and glia-glia interactions under pathological conditions. (C) 2010 Wiley-Liss, Inc.