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Brain Res Mol Brain Res. 1998 Feb;54(1):35-48.

Calpain I activation in rat hippocampal neurons in culture is NMDA receptor selective and not essential for excitotoxic cell death.

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Laboratory Molecular Neuroscience, Mailman Research Center 104, McLean Hospital, Belmont, MA 02178, USA.


Administration of glutamate (100 microM) to primary cultures of rat hippocampal neurons for 1 h led to calpain I activation as determined by monitoring the extent of spectrin breakdown with the antibodies designed to specifically recognize the calpain I-mediated spectrin breakdown products. Based on the studies with subtype selective antagonists of glutamate receptors, glutamate caused calpain I activation specifically through the activation of the NMDA receptor. In parallel experiments, the magnitude and the temporal profiles of Ca2+ rise were determined by Fura-2 microfluorimetry. Ca2+ influx through voltage-sensitive Ca2+ channels, even though leading to substantial Ca2+ rise, did not by itself activate calpain I. These results indicate that for calpain I activation, the source of Ca1+ influx is more important than the magnitude of Ca2+ rise. Glutamate-mediated calpain I activation was fully blocked by preincubation (30 min) of the cultures with calpain inhibitor I, calpain inhibitor II, or calpeptin (all 10 microM). The presence of calpain inhibitors did not, however, in any way ameliorate the massive excitotoxicity resulting from 16 h exposure to glutamate, indicating that calpain I activation and excitotoxicity are not causally related events. Similarly, preincubation with any of the tested calpain inhibitors was detrimental to the clearance of neuritic from a 10-min exposure to glutamate. Additionally, the presence of calpain inhibitors was detrimental to the clearance of neuritic varicosities resulting from a short-term sublethal exposure to glutamate, suggesting that a physiological level of calpain I activation might actually play an important homeostatic role in the restoration of normal cytoskeletal organization.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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