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Neuroscience. 2003;116(3):791-806.

Zinc chelation during non-lesioning overexcitation results in neuronal death in the mouse hippocampus.

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Departamento de Biología Celular, Unidad de Neurobiología, Facultad de Ciencias Biológicas, Universidad de Valencia, Burjasot 46100, Spain.


In the hippocampus, chelatable zinc is accumulated in vesicles of glutamatergic presynaptic terminals, abounding specially in the mossy fibers, from where it is released with activity and can exert a powerful inhibitory action upon N-methyl-D-aspartate receptors. Zinc is therefore in a strategic situation to control overexcitation at the zinc-rich excitatory synapses, and consequently zinc removal during high activity might result in excitotoxic neuronal damage. We analyzed the effect of zinc chelation with sodium dietyldithiocarbamate under overexcitation conditions induced by non-lesioning doses of kainic acid in the mouse hippocampus, to get insight into the role of zinc under overexcitation. Swiss male mice were injected with kainic acid (15 mg/kg, i.p.) 15 min prior to sodium dietyldithiocarbamate (150 mg/kg, i.p.), and left to survive for 6 h, 1 day, 4 days, or 7 days after the treatment. Cell damage was analyzed with the hematoxylin-eosin and acid fuchsin stainings. Neither control animals treated only with kainic acid nor those treated only with sodium dietyldithiocarbamate suffered seizures or neuronal damage. By contrast, the kainic acid+sodium dietyldithiocarbamate-treated animals showed convulsive behavior and cell death involving the hilus, CA3, and CA1 regions. Pretreatment with the N-methyl-D-aspartate receptor antagonist MK801 (1 mg/kg, i.p.) completely prevented neuronal damage. Experiments combining different doses of sodium dietyldithiocarbamate and kainic acid with different administration schedules demonstrated that the overlap of zinc chelation and overexcitation is necessary to trigger the observed effects. Moreover, the treatment with a high dose of sodium dietyldithiocarbamate (1000 mg/kg), which produced a complete bleaching of the Timm staining for approximately 12 h, highly increased the sensitivity of animals to kainic acid. Altogether, our results indicate that the actions of sodium dietyldithiocarbamate are based on a reduction of zinc levels, which under overexcitation conditions induce seizures and neuronal damage. These findings fully support a protective role for synaptically released zinc during high neuronal activity, most probably mediated by its inhibitory actions on N-methyl-D-aspartate receptors, and argue against a direct action of synaptic zinc on the observed neuronal damage.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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