NMDA-induced modification of postsynaptic densities (PSDs) was studied by immunoelectron microscopy. Treatment of cultured hippocampal neurons with NMDA for 2 min promotes a 2.3 fold thickening of the PSD and a 4 fold increase in PSD-associated CaMKII immunolabel. These changes are reversed 5 min after the removal of NMDA and Ca2+ from the medium. In addition, following NMDA treatment, PSDs exhibit a 7.5 fold increase in labeling with an antibody specific to the (Thr286) phospho-form of CaMKII, indicating that CaMKII translocated to the PSD is phosphorylated. When the phosphatase inhibitors, calyculin A or okadaic acid, are included in the medium, the NMDA-induced thickening of the PSD as well as the increase in PSD-associated CaMKII immunolabeling are largely maintained (75% and 88% of the peak values respectively) at 5 min after removal of NMDA and Ca2+ from the medium. These results imply that NMDA receptors can mediate activity-induced changes in the PSD and that phosphatases of type 1 and/or 2A are involved in the reversal of these changes.