Cell and Tissue Research

, 345:329 | Cite as

Validation of organotypical hippocampal slice cultures as an ex vivo model of brain ischemia: different roles of NMDA receptors in cell death signalling after exposure to NMDA or oxygen and glucose deprivation

  • Hanna Ahlgren
  • Kristi Henjum
  • Ole Petter Ottersen
  • Elise Rundén-Pran
Regular Article


N-Methyl-D-aspartate receptors (NMDARs) are essential mediators of synaptic plasticity under normal physiological conditions. During brain ischemia, these receptors are excessively activated due to glutamate overflow and mediate excitotoxic cell death. Although organotypical hippocampal slice cultures are widely used to study brain ischemia in vitro by induction of oxygen and glucose deprivation (OGD), there is scant data regarding expression and functionality of NMDARs in such slice cultures. Here, we have evaluated the contribution of NMDARs in mediating excitotoxic cell death after exposure to NMDA or OGD in organotypical hippocampal slice cultures after 14 days in vitro (DIV14). We found that all NMDAR subunits were expressed at DIV14. The NMDARs were functional and contributed to cell death, as evidenced by use of the NMDAR antagonist MK-801 (dizocilpine). Excitotoxic cell death induced by NMDA could be fully antagonized by 10 μM MK-801, a dose that offered only partial protection against OGD-induced cell death. Very high concentrations of MK-801 (50–100 μM) were required to counteract cell death at long delays (48–72 h) after OGD. The relative high dose of MK-801 needed for long-term protection after OGD could not be attributed to down-regulation of NMDARs at the gene expression level. Our data indicate that NMDAR signaling is just one of several mechanisms underlying ischemic cell death and that prospective cytoprotective therapies must be directed to multiple targets.


Organotypical hippocampal slice cultures NMDA receptors Excitotoxicity Ischemia Oxygen and glucose deprivation (OGD) 



We are extremely grateful to Prof. Dr. Peter Seeburg (Max Planck Institute for Medical Research, Heidelberg) and to Prof. Eric Rinvik (CMBN, UiO) for helpful discussions and comments on the manuscript. We thank Karen Marie Gujord for technical assistance. Hanna Ahlgren received a scholarship through EU FP6 Marie Curie EST CORTEX network Cooperation in Research and Training for European Excellence in the Neurosciences. This study was also supported by the European Union Biomed Projects GRIPPANT 005320 and the Letten foundation.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  • Hanna Ahlgren
    • 1
    • 2
  • Kristi Henjum
    • 1
  • Ole Petter Ottersen
    • 1
  • Elise Rundén-Pran
    • 1
    • 3
  1. 1.Center for Molecular Biology and Neuroscience and Department of Anatomy, Institute of Basic Medical SciencesUniversity of OsloOsloNorway
  2. 2.Department of Neurobiology, Interdisciplinary Center for Neurosciences (IZN)University of HeidelbergHeidelbergGermany
  3. 3.Health Effects Laboratory, Department of Environmental ChemistryNILU- Norwegian institute for Air ResearchKjellerNorway

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