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Neuroscience. 1999;93(3):1135-40.

Glutamate-induced increase of extracellular glutamate through N-methyl-D-aspartate receptors in ethanol withdrawal.

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  • 1B.B. Brodie Department of Neuroscience and CNR Centre for Neuropharmacology, University of Cagliari, Italy.


Ethanol withdrawal is a physiopathological state associated with increased number and function of N-methyl-D-aspartate glutamate receptors. We assessed the effect of N-methyl-D-aspartate receptor stimulation on the extracellular levels of glutamate in vivo by the focal application of N-methyl-D-aspartate in the striatum of dependent rats following withdrawal from chronic treatment with ethanol. In control, chronic sucrose-treated rats, 800 microM N-methyl-D-aspartate increased glutamate levels to 268% of baseline values. In ethanol-withdrawn animals, 12 h after interruption of the chronic treatment, the application of N-methyl-D-aspartate increased glutamate levels to 598% of baseline values. In ethanol-intoxicated rats N-methyl-D-aspartate was ineffective. Concentration-response curves showed that in ethanol withdrawn animals N-methyl-D-aspartate was five-fold more potent than in controls. In withdrawn animals, the non-competitive N-methyl-D-aspartate receptor antagonist dizocilpine (1.0 mg/kg i.p.) or ethanol (5 g/kg i.g.) markedly reduced the N-methyl-D-aspartate-induced increase in glutamate levels. These results are consistent with the up-regulation of N-methyl-D-aspartate receptors by chronic ethanol and add biochemical evidence for the presence of N-methyl-D-aspartate receptors facilitating glutamate release through a positive feedback mechanism. The glutamate-induced, N-methyl-D-aspartate receptor-mediated elevations of extracellular glutamate may constitute a neurochemical substrate for the neuropathological alterations associated with alcoholism.

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