Drugs of abuse alter expression of AMPA-type glutamate receptor subunits (GluRs) in the nucleus accumbens (NAc), a key component of brain reward systems. The impact of this regulation on general motivational states is unclear. Here, we used herpes simplex virus vectors to examine how transient increases in the expression of GluR1 or GluR2 protein in the shell component of NAc affect the rewarding impact of electrical stimulation of the medial forebrain bundle, as reflected by intracranial self-stimulation (ICSS) thresholds in rats. We found that elevated GluR1 in NAc shell increases ICSS thresholds, an effect similar to that caused by treatments that cause anhedonia and dysphoria (prodepressive effects) in rats and humans (e.g., drug withdrawal, kappa-opioid agonists). In contrast, elevated GluR2 decreases ICSS thresholds, an effect similar to that caused by rewarding treatments (e.g., drugs of abuse). To confirm that viral vector-mediated elevations of GluR1 in the NAc shell produce molecular consequences that are different from those of elevated GluR2, we examined the expression of a set of drug-regulated genes 3 d after treatment using quantitative PCR. Elevated GluR1 was accompanied by sustained increases in the gene for GluR1, whereas elevated GluR2 was accompanied by decreases in prodynorphin. These data suggest that GluR1 and GluR2 in the NAc shell play opposing roles in the regulation of motivated behavior.