Send to

Choose Destination
J Neurochem. 1998 Dec;71(6):2349-64.

Distinct influx pathways, not calcium load, determine neuronal vulnerability to calcium neurotoxicity.

Author information

Playfair Neuroscience Unit, Toronto Hospital Research Institute, Ontario, Canada.


Many forms of neurodegeneration are ascribed to excessive cellular Ca2+ loading (Ca2+ hypothesis). We examined quantitatively whether factors other than Ca2+ loading were determinants of excitotoxic neurodegeneration. Cell survival, morphology, free intracellular Ca2+ concentration ([Ca2+]i), and 45Ca2+ accumulation were measured in cultured cortical neurons loaded with known quantities of Ca2+ through distinct transmembrane pathways triggered by excitatory amino acids, cell membrane depolarization, or Ca2+ ionophores. Contrary to the Ca2+ hypothesis, the relationships between Ca2+ load and cell survival, free [Ca2+]i, and Ca2+-induced morphological alterations depended primarily on the route of Ca2+ influx, not the Ca2+ load. Notably, Ca2+ loading via NMDA receptor channels was toxic, whereas identical Ca2+ loads incurred through voltage-sensitive Ca2+ channels were completely innocuous. Furthermore, accounting quantitatively for Ca2+ loading via NMDA receptors uncovered a previously unreported component of L-glutamate neurotoxicity apparently not mediated by ionotropic or metabotropic glutamate receptors. It was synergistic with toxicity attributable to glutamate-evoked Ca2+ loading, and correlated with enhanced cellular ATP depletion. This previously unrecognized toxic action of glutamate constituted a chief excitotoxic mechanism under conditions producing submaximal Ca2+ loading. We conclude that (a) Ca2+ neurotoxicity is a function of the Ca2+ influx pathway, not Ca2+ load, and (b) glutamate toxicity may not be restricted to its actions on glutamate receptors.

Comment in

[Indexed for MEDLINE]
Free full text

Supplemental Content

Full text links

Icon for Wiley
Loading ...
Support Center