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Exp Brain Res. 1992;89(1):40-8.

Amino acids and N-acetyl-aspartyl-glutamate as neurotransmitter candidates in the monkey retinogeniculate pathways.

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Department of Neurology and Cell Biology/Anatomy, Mount Sinai School of Medicine, CUNY, NY 10029.


The identity of the neurotransmitter(s) in the mammalian retinogeniculate pathway is unclear. To investigate the possibility that some amino acids and certain dipeptides, such as N-acetyl-aspartyl-glutamate (NAAG), fulfill this function, changes in their concentration were measured in the optic tract, and the parvocellular and magnocellular segments of the LGNd of six monkeys (Macaca fascicularis), seven days after right optic tractotomy. The LGNd was studied also in two additional macaques, three months after occipital lobectomy. Tissue was frozen within five minutes of death, regions were dissected with the micropunch technique, and substances were analyzed by HPLC. Optic tractotomy induced significant, large reductions in NAAG, glutamate and aspartate in the optic tract distal to the lesion. Significant decreases in NAAG were also measured in the LGNd, and these changes were apparent in both the parvocellular and magnocellular segments. A small reduction in glutamate reached significance in the parvocellular laminae, and that of aspartate only approached significance in the magnocellular division. Occipital lobectomy produced large declines in aspartate and glutamate in the LGNd. The results of optic tractotomy support the role of NAAG as a neurotransmitter candidate in the monkey retinogeniculate pathways; its significant decrease in both geniculate segments suggests that both P- and M- retinal axons utilize this substance. Although at times the reductions in glutamate or aspartate failed to reach significance, their role cannot be excluded. The findings after occipital lobectomy strongly favor these latter substances as corticogeniculate and/or geniculocortical transmitters.

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