N-methyl-D-aspartate receptor-mediated neuroprotection in cerebellar granule cells requires new RNA and protein synthesis

A. M. Marini, S. M. Paul

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Cerebellar granule cells are susceptible to the excitotoxin glutamate, which acts at N-methyl-D-aspartate (NMDA) receptors, as well as the neurotoxin 1-methyl-4-phenylpyridinium ion (MPP+), the active cytotoxic metabolite of 1-methyl-4-phenyl-1,2,3,6-tetrahydropyridine (MPTP). Paradoxically, preincubation of cultured cerebellar granule cells with low concentrations of NMDA or glutamate markedly antagonizes the neurotoxicity resulting from subsequent exposure to toxic concentrations of either MPP+ or glutamate. The neuroprotective effects of NMDA and glutamate against MPP+ toxicity are observed at agonist concentrations as low as 1 μM, are blocked by specific NMDA receptor antagonists, and require at least 30 min to develop fully. Moreover, NMDA receptor-mediated neuroprotection is prevented by the RNA synthesis inhibitor actinomycin D or the protein synthesis inhibitor cycloheximide. Thus, in cerebellar granule cells activation of NMDA receptors by glutamate can result in either neurotoxicity or neuroprotection, depending on the apparent degree of receptor stimulation. NMDA receptor-mediated neuroprotection requires new RNA and protein synthesis and therefore appears to be mediated by the expression of a neuroprotective protein(s). These data demonstrate the presence of an active NMDA receptor-mediated and transcriptionally directed neuroprotective mechanism in cerebellar granule cells.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)6555-6559
Number of pages5
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Issue number14
StatePublished - Jul 15 1992


  • 1-methyl-4-phenylpyridinium ion and glutamate toxicity
  • Neuroprotective protein(s)


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