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Neuroscience. 2011 Sep 8;190:318-27. doi: 10.1016/j.neuroscience.2011.06.013. Epub 2011 Jun 12.

Delayed neuroprotection by riluzole against excitotoxic damage evoked by kainate on rat organotypic spinal cord cultures.

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Neurobiology Sector and IIT Unit, International School for Advanced Studies (SISSA), Trieste, Italy.


Kainate-mediated excitotoxicity of organotypic spinal cord cultures is an in vitro model advantageous to investigate basic mechanisms of acute spinal injury and its pharmacological neuroprotection. Using such cultures, the putative neuroprotective agent riluzole applied at 5 μM (plasma therapeutic concentration) was studied for its ability to prevent neurotoxicity evoked by 1 h administration of kainate. We monitored real-time release of glutamate, release of lactate dehydrogenase (LDH) (cell damage marker), occurrence of cell pyknosis, the number of surviving neurons and motoneurons, and cell culture metabolic activity. Co-applied riluzole strongly blocked the kainate-evoked early rise in extracellular glutamate (via calcium dependent or independent processes) and suppressed LDH release (limited to <20% of total). Although there were no significant cell losses within the first h after kainate washout, pyknosis, fewer neurons and motoneurons were observed 24 h later. MTT assay demonstrated that surviving cells were metabolically competent. Co-application of kainate and tetrodotoxin also failed to protect spinal cord slices 24 h later. When riluzole application begun at kainate washout and continued for 24 h, significant neuroprotection was observed for neurons in the central and dorsal regions, while ventral horn cells (including motoneurons) were not protected. Our data suggest that riluzole neuroprotection against excitotoxicity was feasible, although it paradoxically required delayed drug administration, and was not extended to the ventral horn. We propose that riluzole was acting on yet-unidentified processes downstream of glutamate release and receptor activation. Deciphering their identity and role in cell death mechanisms may be an important goal to develop neuroprotection.

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