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Brain Res. 1991 Aug 9;556(1):151-6.

Reductions in acidic amino acids and N-acetylaspartylglutamate in amyotrophic lateral sclerosis CNS.

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  • 1Department of Psychiatry, Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, Baltimore, MD 21205.


Acidic excitatory amino acids have been implicated in the pathogenesis of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS). We now report that, in addition to selective regional reductions in endogenous aspartate and glutamate, N-acetylaspartate (NAA), and N-acetylaspartylglutamate (NAAG) are also decreased in the CNS, whereas the activity of N-acetylated-alpha-linked-amino dipeptidase (NAALADase) is increased. In cervical cord, the concentrations of aspartate and glutamate were decreased significantly in the ventral horn; NAA was decreased in the ventral horn, dorsal horn and ventral column, whereas NAAG was decreased in all regions of the cord examined, except the posterior column. NAALADase activity was increased in the ventral column. In motor cortex of ALS patients, aspartate and glutamate were decreased and NAALADase activity was increased in both gray and white matter; whereas NAAG was decreased in gray matter alone. None of these parameters was affected in the cerebral cortex of the Huntington's patients. Of the markers examined, the alterations in the levels of NAAG most closely parallel the cellular neuropathology in ALS.

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