Glutamate neurotoxicity is thought to play a role in the pathogenesis of several neurodegenerative diseases. While prolonged activation of either NMDA or non-NMDA receptors causes neuronal damage, NMDA receptors appear to mediate most of the glutamate toxicity. The reasons why NMDA toxicity predominates are uncertain but may relate to more effective neuroprotective mechanisms acting at non-NMDA receptors. To determine whether desensitization is one such mechanism, we studied the effects of the lectin wheat germ agglutinin (WGA) on quisqualate currents and toxicity in cultured postnatal rat hippocampal neurons. After WGA treatment, quisqualate currents exhibit little desensitization and a 4- to 8-fold increase in steady-state amplitude. WGA also markedly augments the degree of acute, quisqualate-induced neuronal degeneration. These results suggest that non-NMDA desensitization serves a neuroprotective function in hippocampal neurons.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)61-66
Number of pages6
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jul 1990


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