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Alcohol. 1990 May-Jun;7(3):229-31.

Ethanol and the NMDA receptor.

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National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, Division of Intramural Clinical and Biological Research, Bethesda, MD 20892.


The actions of glutamate, the major excitatory amino acid in the CNS, are mediated by three receptor subtypes: kainate, quisqualate and N-methyl-D-aspartate (NMDA) receptors. Ethanol, in vitro, is a potent and selective inhibitor of the actions of agonists at the NMDA receptor. Following chronic ethanol ingestion, the number of NMDA receptor-ion channel complexes in certain brain areas is increased. This increase may contribute to the generation of ethanol withdrawal seizures, since administration of an NMDA receptor antagonist can reduce these seizures. The results suggest that certain acute behavioral effects of ethanol, such as effects on memory, as well as certain aspects of ethanol withdrawal, may involve the NMDA receptor.

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