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Brain Res. 1988 Aug 9;457(2):226-40.

Evidence for a role of the N-methyl-D-aspartate (NMDA) receptor in cortical spreading depression in the rat.

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  • 1Department of Neuropharmacology, Janssen Pharmaceutica, Beerse, Belgium.


The neurotransmitter glutamate activates the N-methyl-D-aspartate (NMDA), quisqualate and kainate receptors. It has been proposed, but also disputed, that local release of glutamate would play a pivotal role in cortical spreading depression (SD). We tested this hypothesis by investigating the influence of NMDA antagonists on SD, using the non-competitive NMDA antagonists ketamine, phencyclidine (PCP) and MK-801 and the competitive NMDA antagonist DL-2-amino-7-phosphonoheptanoate (2-APH), injected intraperitoneally in rats anesthetized with alfentanil. SD was elicited by cathodal DC-stimulation of the frontal cortex. SD propagation was followed using two ion-sensitive microelectrodes placed in the parietal and occipital cortex. The NMDA antagonists increased SD threshold, decreased the propagation velocity and decreased the duration of the accompanying extracellular DC, K+ and Ca2+ changes at the following doses: 40 mg/kg ketamine, 10 mg/kg PCP, 0.63 mg/kg MK-801, 10 and 40 mg/kg 2-APH. With each NMDA antagonist failure of SD propagation between both microelectrodes could be observed. SD elicitation (or propagation) was inhibited completely with 80 mg/kg ketamine, 3.1 mg/kg MK-801 and 160 mg/kg 2-APH. These NMDA antagonists have also anticonvulsant properties. None of these effects on SD were observed with high doses of other anticonvulsants such as 80 mg/kg phenytoin or 40 mg/kg diazepam. These experiments indicate that endogenous release of excitatory amino acids and their action on the NMDA receptor play an important role in the initiation, propagation and duration of SD.

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