Extensive nerve cell death occurs during the development of the central nervous system as well as in episodes of trauma and in neurodegenerative disease. The mechanistic details of how these cells die are poorly understood. Here we describe a unique oxidative stress-induced programmed cell death pathway called oxytosis, and outline pharmacological approaches which interfere with its execution. Oxidative glutamate toxicity, in which exogenous glutamate inhibits cystine uptake through the cystine/glutamate antiporter leading to a depletion of glutathione, is used as an example of oxytosis. It is shown that there is a sequential requirement for de novo macromolecular synthesis, lipoxygenase activation, reactive oxygen species production, and the opening of cGMP-gated channels which allow the influx of extracellular calcium. The translation initiation factor eIF2α plays a central role in this pathway by regulating the levels of glutathione. Finally, examples are given in which the reduction in glutathione, the production of reactive oxygen species, and calcium influx can be experimentally manipulated to prevent cell death. Data are reviewed which suggest that oxytosis may be involved in nerve cell death associated with nervous system trauma and disease.