Send to

Choose Destination
Prog Neurobiol. 1999 Dec;59(6):691-719.

The selective vulnerability of striatopallidal neurons.

Author information

School of Psychology, University of Birmingham, UK.


The different types of striatal neuron show a range of vulnerabilities to a variety of insults. This can be clearly seen in Huntington's disease where a well mapped pattern of pathological events occurs. Medium spiny projection (MSP) neurons are the first striatal cells to be affected as the disease progresses whilst interneurons, in particular the NADPH diaphorase positive ones, are spared even in the late stages of the disease. The MSP neurons themselves are also differentially affected. The death of MSP neurons in the patch compartment of the striatum precedes that in the matrix compartment and the MSP neurons of the dorsomedial caudate nucleus degenerate before those in the ventral lateral putamen. The enkephalin positive striatopallidal MSP neurons are also more vulnerable than the substance P/dynorphin MSP neurons. We review the potential causes of this selective vulnerability of striatopallidal neurons and discuss the roles of endogenous glutamate, nitric oxide and calcium binding proteins. It is concluded that MSP neurons in general are especially susceptible to disruptions of cellular respiration due to the enormous amount of energy they expend on maintaining unusually high transmembrane potentials. We go on to consider a subpopulation of enkephalinergic striatopallidal neurons in the rat which are particularly vulnerable. This subpopulation of neurons readily undergo apoptosis in response to experimental manipulations which affect dopamine and/or corticosteroid levels. We speculate that the cellular mechanisms underlying this cell death may also operate in degenerative disorders such as Huntington's disease thereby imposing an additional level of selectivity on the pattern of degeneration. The possible contribution of the selective death of striatopallidal neurons to a number of clinically important psychiatric conditions including obsessive compulsive disorders and Tourette's syndrome is also discussed.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

Supplemental Content

Full text links

Icon for Elsevier Science
Loading ...
Support Center