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Cell. 2004 Sep 17;118(6):687-98.

Neuroprotection in ischemia: blocking calcium-permeable acid-sensing ion channels.

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Robert S Dow Neurobiology Laboratories, Legacy Research, Portland, OR 97232, USA.


Ca2+ toxicity remains the central focus of ischemic brain injury. The mechanism by which toxic Ca2+ loading of cells occurs in the ischemic brain has become less clear as multiple human trials of glutamate antagonists have failed to show effective neuroprotection in stroke. Acidosis is a common feature of ischemia and is assumed to play a critical role in brain injury; however, the mechanism(s) remain ill defined. Here, we show that acidosis activates Ca2+ -permeable acid-sensing ion channels (ASICs), inducing glutamate receptor-independent, Ca2+ -dependent, neuronal injury inhibited by ASIC blockers. Cells lacking endogenous ASICs are resistant to acid injury, while transfection of Ca2+ -permeable ASIC1a establishes sensitivity. In focal ischemia, intracerebroventricular injection of ASIC1a blockers or knockout of the ASIC1a gene protects the brain from ischemic injury and does so more potently than glutamate antagonism. Thus, acidosis injures the brain via membrane receptor-based mechanisms with resultant toxicity of [Ca2+]i, disclosing new potential therapeutic targets for stroke.

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