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Neuroscience. 2001;106(3):603-12.

Lithium suppresses excitotoxicity-induced striatal lesions in a rat model of Huntington's disease.

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Section on Molecular Neurobiology, Biological Psychiatry Branch, National Institute of Mental Health, National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, MD 20892-1363, USA.


Huntington's disease is a progressive, inherited neurodegenerative disorder characterized by the loss of subsets of neurons primarily in the striatum. In this study, we assessed the neuroprotective effect of lithium against striatal lesion formation in a rat model of Huntington's disease in which quinolinic acid was unilaterally infused into the striatum. For this purpose, we used a dopamine receptor autoradiography and glutamic acid decarboxylase mRNA in situ hybridization analysis, methods previously shown to be adequate for quantitative analysis of the excitotoxin-induced striatal lesion size. Here we demonstrated that subcutaneous injections of LiCl for 16 days prior to quinolinic acid infusion considerably reduced the size of quinolinic acid-induced striatal lesion. Furthermore, these lithium pre-treatments also decreased the number of striatal neurons labeled with the terminal deoxynucleotidyl transferase-mediated dUTP-biotin nick end labeling assay. Immunohistochemistry and western blotting demonstrated that lithium-elicited neuroprotection was associated with an increase in Bcl-2 protein levels. Our results raise the possibility that lithium may be considered as a neuroprotective agent in treatment of neurodegenerative diseases such as Huntington's disease.

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