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Stress. 1997 Aug;1(4):201-212.

Neurotoxicity of Kainate to the Hippocampus is not Accrued by Aging, Stress and Exogenous Corticosterone in Wistar Kyoto and Spontaneously Hypertensive Rats.

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Institute of Pharmacology, Second Chair ; University of Rome "La Sapienza", Rome-Italy.


It has been reported that a high corticosterone milieu can exacerbate various experimental insults to the nervous system, in particular to the hippocampus. However, in many of these studies the above milieu was attained by injecting corticosterone in doses (e.g. 10 mg/rat) producing supraphysiological concentrations. In the present study we have investigated whether high plasma corticosterone levels, such as those associated with aging or stress, potentiate a hippocampal excitotoxic insult. Male Wistar Kyoto (WKY) and Spontaneously Hypertensive Rats (SHR) at the age of 6, 12, 18 and 24 months (only WKY for the oldest age) were used. As in other strains, aging in these rats was marked by an increase in basal plasma corticosterone levels. Rats were infused in the dorsal hippocampus with kainic acid (0.035 µg/hippocampus) and the neuronal injury was evaluated within the areas CA3 and CA4. Results indicated that neither aging nor the hypertensive condition affected kainic acid neurotoxicity. In order to study the effect of stress, rats were stressed twice a day, with alternate types of stressors to avoid possible habituation, 3 days prior to and 3 days following the kainic acid infusion. Using this experimental paradigm the hippocampal damage in stressed rats was of the same degree as in non-stressed controls. In a complementary set of experiments, 6 month old WKY and SHR rats were injected with corticosterone (10 mg/rat s.c.). Four hours after administration plasma corticosterone levels in the range of 60-70 µg/100 ml were found. Moreover, a time-course study showed a plasma corticosterone peak in the range of 240 µg/100 ml. Daily corticosterone administration for 3 days before and 3 days after kainic acid infusion potentiated the hippocampal damage in 6 months old SHR but not in the WKY. These results demonstrate that elevation of corticosterone levels within physiological range does not exacerbate hippocampal kainate neurotoxicity and that pharmacological doses of glucocorticoid hormone, which produces plasma levels well above those observable in any physiopathological condition, might, with some strain dependency, potentiate a hippocampal neurotoxic insult.

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