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J Neurotrauma. 2000 Mar;17(3):251-60.

The striatum is the most vulnerable region in the brain to mitochondrial energy compromise: a hypothesis to explain its specific vulnerability.

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  • 1Department of Physiology, Nagoya City University Medical School, Nagoya, Japan.


The striatum, together with the hippocampus, is one of the most vulnerable regions in the brain. Recently, genetic abnormalities or mutations have been linked to various neurodegenerative diseases, that is, Huntington's disease, Alzheimer's disease, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), etc., but the processes from genetic abnormality to the final phenotypic expression are not well understood. Disturbances in energy metabolism especially in mitochondrial energy compromise could facilitate genetic abnormalities and enhance neuronal cell death. Here, we report that the striatum is the most vulnerable brain region to systemic intoxication with 3-nitropropionic acid (3-NPA), an inhibitor of succinate dehydrogenase inducing energy compromise. We hypothesize that the striatum-specific lesion by 3-NPA is due to cummulative insults characteristic to the striatum including glutamatergic excitotoxicity, dopaminergic toxicity, vulnerability of the lateral striatal artery and high activity in the glutamate-transporter. The former two are extravascular in origin while the latter two are intra-/perivascular. We also discuss the possibility that a high turnover rate in metabolism of nitric oxide (NO) might underlie the vulnerability of the lateral striatal artery. We posit that systemic intoxication with 3-NPA offers a good animal model to investigate the pathophysiology of neuronal/glial cell death, neurodegenerative disease, dysfunction of the blood-brain barrier (BBB), neuroimmune disorders, and stroke.

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