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Exp Neurol. 1997 Apr;144(2):406-15.

NMDA receptor overstimulation triggers a prolonged wave of immediate early gene expression: relationship to excitotoxicity.

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Department of Anatomy and Cell Biology, Wayne State University School of Medicine, Detroit, Michigan 48201, USA.


Exposure of the rodent striatum to quinolinic acid (QA, N-methyl-D-aspartate receptor agonist) induces immediate early gene (IEG; c-fos, c-jun, jun-B, zif/268) expression that may extend 12-24 h after injection. In order to determine the specificity of the prolonged IEG response to the QA injection, the temporal pattern of c-fos mRNA expression was examined during the first 4 h after administration of saline or QA (40 micrograms). As early as 30 min after intrastriatal injection, both saline and QA increased c-fos mRNA levels. In the saline group, this increase in IEG expression was only transient and returned to baseline by 1 h. In contrast, c-fos mRNA levels within QA-injected animals continued to rise significantly at 1 and 4 h. In a second experiment, rats received 4 ng to 40-micrograms injections of QA followed by sacrifice at 6 h to determine if increasing QA doses caused the appearance of the prolonged IEG response phase. The prolonged IEG response was evident at 6 h only in animal groups that received higher dose ranges (4-40 micrograms) of QA. A final experiment was undertaken to determine if blockage of NMDA receptor stimulation would also inhibit the prolonged IEG response at 6 h in relationship to neuronal sparing evidenced at 24 h post-QA injection. The NMDA receptor antagonist, MK-801, blocked the prolonged IEG response at 6 h following QA (40 micrograms) injection while also preventing striatal neuropeptide mRNA decline by 24 h. Delaying the MK-801 administration for 1-2 h post-QA injection revealed that the intensity of the prolonged IEG mRNA response may be predictive of neuronal demise within the QA lesion site. These results suggest that prolonged IEG expression is associated with QA excitotoxicity of the rodent striatum and subsequent neuronal degeneration.

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