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J Neurochem. 1996 Dec;67(6):2484-93.

Cytoskeletal breakdown and apoptosis elicited by NO donors in cerebellar granule cells require NMDA receptor activation.

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Institute of Environmental Medicine, Karolinska Institutet, Stockholm, Sweden.


We have recently demonstrated that nitric oxide (NO) donors can trigger either apoptosis or necrosis of neurons as a function of the intensity of the exposure. Here, we show that the apoptosis induced by the NO donors S-nitrosocysteine (SNOC) or S-nitroso-N-acetyl-penicillamine (SNAP) in cultured cerebellar granule cells (CGCs) depends on NMDA receptor (NMDA-R) activation leading to intracellular Ca2+ overload. Early dissolution of actin filaments followed by breakdown of microtubules and nuclear lamins preceded the appearance of typical apoptotic features. NO donors induced tyrosine nitration in neurons, in a small population of contaminating astrocytes, and in cultures of cerebellar astroglial cells. However, astrocytes neither displayed cytoskeletal alterations nor underwent apoptosis. Competitive and uncompetitive NMDA receptor antagonists, such as D-aminophosphonovaleric acid and MK-801, did not influence tyrosine nitration but prevented the accumulation of intracellular Ca2+, cytoskeletal breakdown, and apoptosis induced by either SNOC or SNAP in CGCs. Taken together, these data strongly suggest that Ca2+ influx through NMDA-R-gated ion channels is a critical event in CGC apoptosis induced by NO donors.

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