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Neuroscience. 1998 May;84(2):489-501.

Phencyclidine and corticosteroids induce apoptosis of a subpopulation of striatal neurons: a neural substrate for psychosis?

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School of Psychology, University of Birmingham, UK.


Phencyclidine, a non-competitive N-methyl-D-aspartate receptor antagonist and indirect dopamine agonist, has neuroprotective properties. Phencyclidine, however, can also exert toxic effects and causes degeneration of neurons in the retrosplenial cortex. In this paper we demonstrate that acute administration of a high dose of phencyclidine to rats, (80 mg/kg), also causes death of a subpopulation of striatal neurons. The dying cells exhibited many of the morphological and biochemical features of cells undergoing apoptosis as revealed by a silver methenamine stain, propidium iodide fluorescence histochemistry and a TUNEL procedure. The majority of the dying cells tended to be clustered within the dorsomedial aspect of the striatum. The type of striatal cell undergoing apoptosis was determined by stereotaxically injecting a colloidal gold retrograde anatomical tracer into the major areas of striatal termination prior to the administration of phencyclidine. This procedure demonstrated that phencyclidine induced striatal apoptosis is almost exclusively limited to striatopallidal neurons. A similar series of experiments was conducted to determine whether the synthetic corticosteroid, dexamethasone, also induces apoptosis of striatal neurons. Corticosteroids are known to be toxic to hippocampal neurons and interact with striatal dopamine transmission. Acute administration of dexamethasone, (20 mg/kg), induced apoptosis of a subpopulation of striatal cells. As was the case with phencyclidine, most of the dexamethasone-induced apoptotic striatal cells were striatopallidal neurons located within the dorsomedial striatum. The pathology during the early stages of Huntington's disease is restricted to an equivalent subpopulation of striatal neurons. Many Huntington's patients are extremely psychotic during this stage in the progression of the disease. Psychosis is also associated with the acute administration of both phencyclidine and dexamethasone to humans. We accordingly speculate that the selective loss of striatopallidal neurons in the dorsomedial striatum may represent the neural substrate of many forms of psychosis.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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