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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 1996 May 14;93(10):4688-92.

Excitotoxicity in the lung: N-methyl-D-aspartate-induced, nitric oxide-dependent, pulmonary edema is attenuated by vasoactive intestinal peptide and by inhibitors of poly(ADP-ribose) polymerase.

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Department of Medicine, University Medical Center, Stony Brook, NY 11794-8172, USA.


Excitatory amino acid toxicity, resulting from overactivation of N-methyl-D-aspartate (NMDA) glutamate receptors, is a major mechanism of neuronal cell death in acute and chronic neurological diseases. We have investigated whether excitotoxicity may occur in peripheral organs, causing tissue injury, and report that NMDA receptor activation in perfused, ventilated rat lungs triggered acute injury, marked by increased pressures needed to ventilate and perfuse the lung, and by high-permeability edema. The injury was prevented by competitive NMDA receptor antagonists or by channel-blocker MK-801, and was reduced in the presence of Mg2+. As with NMDA toxicity to central neurons, the lung injury was nitric oxide (NO) dependent: it required L-arginine, was associated with increased production of NO, and was attenuated by either of two NO synthase inhibitors. The neuropeptide vasoactive intestinal peptide and inhibitors of poly(ADP-ribose) polymerase also prevented this injury, but without inhibiting NO synthesis, both acting by inhibiting a toxic action of NO that is critical to tissue injury. The findings indicate that: (i) NMDA receptors exist in the lung (and probably elsewhere outside the central nervous system), (ii) excessive activation of these receptors may provoke acute edematous lung injury as seen in the "adult respiratory distress syndrome," and (iii) this injury can be modulated by blockade of one of three critical steps: NMDA receptor binding, inhibition of NO synthesis, or activation of poly(ADP-ribose) polymerase.

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