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J Neurochem. 2002 May;81(4):765-79.

Spermine modulation of the glutamate(NMDA) receptor is differentially responsive to conantokins in normal and Alzheimer's disease human cerebral cortex.

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  • 1Department of Biochemistry, University of Queensland, Brisbane 4072, Australia.


The pharmacology of the N -methyl-d-aspartate (NMDA) receptor site was examined in pathologically affected and relatively spared regions of cerebral cortex tissue obtained at autopsy from Alzheimer's disease cases and matched controls. The affinity and density of the [(3)H]MK-801 binding site were delineated along with the enhancement of [(3)H]MK-801 binding by glutamate and spermine. Maximal enhancement induced by either ligand was regionally variable; glutamate-mediated maximal enhancement was higher in controls than in Alzheimer's cases in pathologically spared regions, whereas spermine-mediated maximal enhancement was higher in controls in areas susceptible to pathological damage. These and other data suggest that the subunit composition of NMDA receptors may be locally variable. Studies with modified conantokin-G (con-G) peptides showed that Ala(7)-con-G had higher affinity than Lys(7)-con-G, and also defined two distinct binding sites in controls. Nevertheless, the affinity for Lys(7)-con-G was higher overall in Alzheimer's brain than in control brain, whereas the reverse was true for Ala(7)-con-G. Over-excitation mediated by specific NMDA receptors might contribute to localized brain damage in Alzheimer's disease. Modified conantokins are useful for identifying the NMDA receptors involved, and may have potential as protective agents.

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