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J Neurosci. 1997 Nov 1;17(21):8178-86.

The actin-severing protein gelsolin modulates calcium channel and NMDA receptor activities and vulnerability to excitotoxicity in hippocampal neurons.

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  • 1Sanders-Brown Research Center on Aging and Department of Anatomy and Neurobiology, University of Kentucky, Lexington, Kentucky 40536, USA.


Calcium influx through NMDA receptors and voltage-dependent calcium channels (VDCC) mediates an array of physiological processes in neurons and may also contribute to neuronal degeneration and death in neurodegenerative conditions such as stroke and severe epileptic seizures. Gelsolin is a Ca2+-activated actin-severing protein that is expressed in neurons, wherein it may mediate motility responses to Ca2+ influx. Primary hippocampal neurons cultured from mice lacking gelsolin exhibited decreased actin filament depolymerization and enhanced Ca2+ influx after exposure to glutamate. Whole-cell patch-clamp analyses showed that currents through NMDA receptors and VDCC were enhanced in hippocampal neurons lacking gelsolin, as a result of decreased current rundown; kainate-induced currents were similar in neurons containing and lacking gelsolin. Vulnerability of cultured hippocampal neurons to glutamate toxicity was greater in cells lacking gelsolin. Seizure-induced damage to hippocampal pyramidal neurons was exacerbated in adult gelsolin-deficient mice. These findings identify novel roles for gelsolin in controlling actin-mediated feedback regulation of Ca2+ influx and in neuronal injury responses. The data further suggest roles for gelsolin and the actin cytoskeleton in both physiological and pathophysiological events that involve activation of NMDA receptors and VDCC.

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