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Neurochem Int. 2013 Jun;62(7):1020-7. doi: 10.1016/j.neuint.2013.03.010. Epub 2013 Mar 26.

Spatio-temporal spread of neuronal death after focal photolysis of caged glutamate in neuron/astrocyte co-cultures.

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Laboratory of Cellular Cybernetics, Graduate School of Information Science and Technology, Hokkaido University, Sapporo, Japan.


Glutamate-mediated excitotoxicity is now accepted as a major mechanism of ischemic neuronal damage. In the infarct core region, massive neuronal death is observed, but neurons in the surroundings of the core (ischemic penumbra) seem viable at the time of stroke. Several hours or days after a stroke, however, many neurons in the penumbra will undergo delayed neuronal death (DND). The mechanisms responsible for such DND are not fully understood. In this study, we investigated whether and how glutamate-mediated localized excitotoxic neuronal death affects surrounding neurons and astrocytes. To induce spatially-restricted excitotoxic neuronal death, a caged glutamate was focally photolyzed by a UV flash in neuron/astrocyte co-cultures. Uncaging of the glutamate resulted in acute neuronal death in the flashed area. After that, DND was observed in the surroundings of the flashed area late after the uncaging. In contrast, DND was not observed in neuron-enriched cultures, suggesting that functional changes in astrocytes, not neurons, after focal acute neuronal death were involved in the induction of DND. The present in vitro study showed that the spatially-restricted excitotoxic neuronal death resulted in DND in the surroundings of the flashed area, and suggested that the nitric oxide (NO)-induced reduction in the expression of astrocytic GLT-1 was responsible for the occurrence of the DND.

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