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J Neurosci. 2001 Jul 15;21(14):5110-20.

Inhibition of mitochondrial complex II induces a long-term potentiation of NMDA-mediated synaptic excitation in the striatum requiring endogenous dopamine.

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  • 1Clinica Neurologica, Dipartimento di Neuroscienze, Universit√† di "Tor Vergata," Rome 00133, Italy.


Abnormal involuntary movements and cognitive impairment represent the classical clinical symptoms of Huntington's disease (HD). This genetic disorder involves degeneration of striatal spiny neurons, but not striatal large cholinergic interneurons, and corresponds to a marked decrease in the activity of mitochondrial complex II [succinate dehydrogenase (SD)] in the brains of HD patients. Here we have examined the possibility that SD inhibitors exert their toxic action by increasing glutamatergic transmission. We report that SD inhibitors such as 3-nitroproprionic acid (3-NP), but not an inhibitor of mitochondrial complex I, produce a long-term potentiation of the NMDA-mediated synaptic excitation (3-NP-LTP) in striatal spiny neurons. In contrast, these inhibitors had no effect on excitatory synaptic transmission in striatal cholinergic interneurons and pyramidal cortical neurons. 3-NP-LTP involves increased intracellular calcium and activation of the mitogen-activated protein kinase extracellular signal-regulated kinase and is critically dependent on endogenous dopamine acting via D2 receptors, whereas it is negatively regulated by D1 receptors. Thus 3-NP-LTP might play a key role in the regional and cell type-specific neuronal death observed in HD.

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