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Toxicol Sci. 2006 Jan;89(1):243-56. Epub 2005 Oct 12.

Sequential involvement of distinct glutamate receptors in domoic acid-induced neurotoxicity in rat mixed cortical cultures: effect of multiple dose/duration paradigms, chronological age, and repeated exposure.

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  • 1Environmental Toxicology Graduate Program, University of California at Riverside, Riverside, California 92521, USA.


The increasing occurrence of poisoning accidents in marine animals caused by the amnesic shellfish toxin, domoic acid (DOM), necessitates a better understanding of the factors contributing to DOM neurotoxicity. Here we evaluated the contribution and temporal involvement of NMDA, non-NMDA- and metabotropic-type glutamate receptors (GluRs) in DOM-induced neuronal death using rat primary mixed cortical cultures. Co-application of antagonists for AMPA/kainate- (NBQX) and NMDA-type GluRs (D-AP5) but not for metabotropic GluRs reduced DOM toxicity induced by either of three EC50 dose/duration exposure paradigms. Maximal protection offered by D-AP5 and NBQX either extended or not to the 30- to 60-min period after DOM exposure, respectively. Antagonists were ineffective if applied with a 2-h delay, indicating the presence of a critical time window for neuronal protection after DOM exposure. Early effects correlated with neuronal swelling was seen as early as 10 min post-DOM, which has been linked to non-NMDAR-mediated depolarization and release of endogenous glutamate. That DOM toxicity is dictated by iGluRs is supported by the finding that increased efficacy and potency of DOM with in vitro neuronal maturation are positively correlated with elevated protein levels of iGluR subunits, including NR1, GluR1, GluR2/3, GluR5, and GluR6/7. We determined the time course of DOM excitotoxicity. At >10 microM maximal neuronal death occurs within 2 h, while doses < or = 10 microM continue to produce death during the subsequent 22-h washout period, indicating a quicker progression of the neuronal death cascade with high DOM concentrations. Accordingly, NBQX applied 30 min post-DOM afforded better protection against low dose/prolonged duration (3 microM/24 h) than against high dose/brief duration exposure (50 microM/10 min). Interestingly, prior exposure to subthreshold DOM dose-dependently aggravated toxicity produced by a subsequent exposure to DOM. These findings provide greater insight into the complex properties underlying DOM toxicity, including the sequential involvement of multiple GluRs, greater potency with increasing neuronal maturation and protein levels of iGluRs, varying efficacy depending on dose, duration, and prior history of DOM exposure.

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