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Neuroreport. 2000 Apr 7;11(5):1117-21.

Selective vulnerability of spinal cord motor neurons to non-NMDA toxicity.

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  • 1Department of Medicine (Neuroscience), Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA, USA.


We previously reported that alpha-motor neurons in organotypic cultures of rat spinal cord (OTC-SC) are resistant to excitotoxicity induced through NMDA receptors. Here we describe the effects of non-NMDA glutamate receptor agonists kainic acid (KA) and quisqualic acid (QUIS) on motor neurons in OTC-SC. Large ventral horn acetylcholinesterase-positive neurons (VHANs), most of which are motor neurons, were quite sensitive to QUIS and KA toxicity and displayed losses of 95% and 94%, respectively. Small VHANs were reduced by 41% and 61% only. Identical results were obtained in cultures stained for non-phosphorylated neurofilaments. These observations demonstrate that alpha-motor neurons are considerably more sensitive to KA and QUIS than to NMDA toxicity. The proposed excitotoxic mechanism of ALS, therefore, is most likely mediated through non-NMDA glutamate receptors.

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