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J Neurochem. 2002 Dec;83(6):1441-51.

Corticosterone acutely prolonged N-methyl-d-aspartate receptor-mediated Ca2+ elevation in cultured rat hippocampal neurons.

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Department of Biophysics and Life Sciences, Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, University of Tokyo at Komaba, Meguro, Tokyo, Japan.


This work reports the first demonstration that corticosterone (CORT) has a rapid and transient effect on NMDA receptor-mediated Ca2+ signaling in cultured rat hippocampal neurons. Using single cell Ca2+ imaging, CORT and agonists of glucocorticoid receptors were observed to modulate the NMDA receptor-mediated Ca2+ signals in a completely different fashion from pregnenolone sulfate. In the absence of steroids, 100 micro m NMDA induced a transient Ca2+ signal that lasted for 30-70 s in 86.1% of the neurons prepared from postnatal rats (3-5 days old). After pre-treatment with 0.1-100 micro m CORT for 10-20 min, NMDA induced extremely prolonged Ca2+ elevation. This prolonged Ca2+ elevation was terminated by the application of MK-801 and followed by washing out of CORT. The proportion of CORT-modulated neurons within the NMDA-responsive cells increased from 25.1 to 95.5% when the concentration of CORT was raised from 0.1 to 50 micro m. Substitution of BSA-conjugated CORT produced essentially the same results. When hippocampal neurons were preincubated with 10 micro m cortisol and 1 micro m dexamethasone for 20 min, a very prolonged Ca2+ elevation was also observed upon NMDA stimulation. The CORT-prolonged Ca2+ elevation caused a long-lasting depolarization of the mitochondrial membrane, as observed with rhodamine 123. In contrast, incubation with 100 micro m pregnenolone sulfate did not considerably alter the time duration of NMDA-induced transient Ca2+ elevation, but caused a significant increase in the peak amplitude of Ca2+ elevation in hippocampal neurons. These results imply that high levels of CORT induce a rapid and non-genomic prolongation of NMDA receptor-mediated Ca2+ elevation, probably via putative membrane surface receptors for CORT in the hippocampal neurons.

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