In the present study, the molecular mechanisms underlying kainate-induced neurotoxicity were characterized in cultured rat hippocampal neurons. Long-term exposure to kainate caused typically apoptotic cell death, which was accompanied by the accumulation of calcium, marked down-regulation of GluR2 subunit, and the activation of calpain and caspase-3. All these alterations were prevented by alpha-amino-3-hydroxy-5-methylisoxazole-4-proprionic acid (AMPA) receptor antagonist CNQX, but not by NMDA receptor antagonist MK801 and membrane L-type calcium channel antagonist nifedipine. In the presence of cyclothiazide, kainate-induced neurotoxicity was significantly enhanced. Inhibition of either caspases by zVAD-fmk or calpains by calpeptin protected neurons from neurotoxicity. These results suggest that long-term exposure of hippocampal neurons to kainate causes apoptosis, whose mechanisms involve multiple Ca2+-dependent cascades, in which AMPA receptor subunits may be targets for Ca2+-activated protease-mediated degradation during kainate-induced neuron apoptosis.
- Alpha-Amino-3-hydroxy-5-methylisoxazole-4- proprionic acid receptor
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