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Neuropharmacology. 2007 Nov;53(6):699-723. Epub 2007 Aug 10.

Memantine: a NMDA receptor antagonist that improves memory by restoration of homeostasis in the glutamatergic system--too little activation is bad, too much is even worse.

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Merz Pharmaceuticals, Eckenheimer Landstrasse 100, 60318 Frankfurt am Main, Germany.


The neurotransmitter glutamate activates several classes of metabotropic receptor and three major types of ionotropic receptor--alpha-amino-3-hydroxy-5-methyl-4-isoxazolepropionic acid (AMPA), kainate and N-methyl-D-aspartate (NMDA). The involvement of glutamate mediated neurotoxicity in the pathogenesis of Alzheimer's disease (AD) is finding increasing scientific acceptance. Central to this hypothesis is the assumption that glutamate receptors, in particular of the NMDA type, are overactivated in a tonic rather than a phasic manner. Such continuous, mild, chronic activation ultimately leads to neuronal damage/death. Additionally, impairment of synaptic plasticity (learning) may result not only from neuronal damage per se but may also be a direct consequence of this continuous, non-contingent NMDA receptor activation. Complete NMDA receptor blockade has also been shown to impair neuronal plasticity, thus, both hypo- and hyperactivity of the glutamatergic system leads to dysfunction. Memantine received marketing authorization from the EMEA (European Medicines Agency) for the treatment of moderate to severe AD in Europe and was subsequently also approved by the FDA (Food and Drug Administration) for use in the same indication in the USA. Memantine is a moderate affinity, uncompetitive NMDA receptor antagonist with strong voltage-dependency and fast kinetics. This review summarizes existing hypotheses on the mechanism of action (MOA) of memantine in an attempt to understand how the accepted interaction with NMDA receptors could allow memantine to provide both neuroprotection and reverse deficits in learning/memory by the same MOA.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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