In previous studies, we found that chronic intermittent ethanol (CIE) treatment-a model of ethanol consumption in which animals are exposed to and withdrawn from intoxicating levels of ethanol on a daily basis-produces neuroadaptive changes in hippocampal area CA1 excitatory synaptic transmission and plasticity. Synaptic responses mediated by N-methyl-D-aspartate (NMDA) receptors are known to be sensitive to ethanol and could play an important role in the neuroadaptive changes induced by CIE treatment. To address this issue, we compared electrophysiological recordings of pharmacologically isolated NMDA-receptor-mediated field excitatory postsynaptic potentials (fEPSPs) in the CA1 region of hippocampal slices prepared from control rats and rats exposed to 2 weeks of CIE treatment administered by vapor inhalation. We found that fEPSPs induced by NMDA receptor activation were unaltered in slices prepared shortly after cessation of CIE treatment (i.e., < or = 1 day of withdrawal from CIE). However, following 7 days of withdrawal from CIE treatment, NMDA-receptor-mediated fEPSPs were augmented relative to age-matched controls. Western blot analysis of NMDA receptor subunit expression showed that, at 7 days of withdrawal, the level of protein for NR2A and NR2B subunits was elevated in the CA1 region of hippocampal slices from CIE-treated animals compared with slices from age-matched controls. These results are consistent with an involvement of NMDA-receptor-mediated synaptic responses in the neuroadaptive effects of CIE on hippocampal physiology and suggest that such changes may contribute to ethanol-induced changes in processes dependent on NMDA-receptor-mediated synaptic responses such as learning and memory, neural development, hyperexcitability and seizures, and neurotoxicity.