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Brain Res. 1996 Mar 4;711(1-2):93-101.

Dual actions of nitric oxide in N-methyl-D-aspartate receptor-mediated neurotoxicity in cultured retinal neurons.

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Department of Ophthalmology, Faculty of Medicine, Kyoto University, Japan.


This study was performed to elucidate the role of nitric oxide (NO) in N-methyl-D-aspartate (NMDA) receptor-mediated glutamate neurotoxicity in the retina. The experiments were done with primary retinal cultures obtained from 17- to 19-day-old rat fetuses. The NOS activity measured by monitoring the conversion of [3H]arginine to [3H]citrulline was approximately 5 pmol/min/mg protein. A 10-min exposure of the cultured cells to glutamate (1 mM) or NMDA (1 mM) followed by a 1-h incubation in a normal medium consistently resulted in 60% cell death. The concomitant addition of an inhibitor of NOS, Nomega-nitro-L-arginine (300 microM), with glutamate or NMDA reduced cell death by 70%. A brief exposure of the cells to sodium nitroprusside (SNP, 500 microM) or S-nitrosocysteine (SNOC, 500 microM), NO-generating agents, caused 60% cell death. Depletion of NO by reduced hemoglobin prevented the cell death induced by either glutamate, NMDA, or NO generating agents. Fifty microM SNOC alone had no effect on the cell viability. However, pretreatment with 50 microM SNOC as well as simultaneous application of 50 microM SNOC with NMDA inhibited cell death induced by NMDA. These findings indicate that a low concentration of NO plays a protective role in glutamate neurotoxicity via closing the NMDA receptor gated ion channel. However, elevated concentrations of NO, interacting with oxygen radicals, become toxic and mediate glutamate-induced neurotoxicity in the cultured retinal neurons.

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