An Approach to Experimental Synaptic Pathology Using Green Fluorescent Protein-Transgenic Mice and Gene Knockout Mice to Show Mitochondrial Permeability Transition Pore-Driven Excitotoxicity in Interneurons and Motoneurons

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Researchers used transgenic mice expressing enhanced-green fluorescent protein (eGFP) driven by either the glycine transporter-2 gene promoter to specifically visualize glycinergic interneurons or the homeobox-9 (Hb9) gene promoter to visualize motoneurons for assessing their vulnerabilities to excitotoxins in vivo. Stereotaxic excitotoxic lesions were made in adult male and female mouse lumbar spinal cord with the specific N-methyl-D-aspartate (NMDA) receptor agonist quinolinic acid (QA) and the non-NMDA ion channel glutamate receptor agonist kainic acid (KA). QA and KA induced large-scale degeneration of glycinergic interneurons in spinal cord. Glycinergic interneurons were more sensitive than motoneurons to NMDA receptor-mediated and non-NMDA glutamate receptor-mediated excitotoxicity. Outcome after spinal cord excitotoxicity was gender-dependent, with males showing greater sensitivity than females. Excitotoxic degeneration of spinal interneurons resembled apoptosis, while motoneuron degeneration appeared non-apoptotic. Perikaryal mitochondrial accumulation was antecedent to both NMDA and non-NMDA receptor-mediated excitotoxic stimulation of interneurons and motoneurons. Genetic ablation of cyclophilin D, a regulator of the mitochondrial permeability transition pore (mPTP), protected both interneurons and motoneurons from excitotoxicity. The results demonstrate in adult mouse spinal cord that glycinergic interneurons are more sensitive than motoneurons to excitotoxicity that stimulates mitochondrial accumulation, and that the mPTP has pro-death functions mediating apoptotic and non-apoptotic neuronal degeneration in vivo.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)220-233
Number of pages14
JournalToxicologic pathology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2011



  • amyotrophic lateral sclerosis
  • apoptosis
  • cyclophilin D
  • excitotoxicity
  • green fluorescent protein
  • mitochondrial fission
  • synaptic pathology

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pathology and Forensic Medicine
  • Molecular Biology
  • Toxicology
  • Cell Biology

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