The neurotoxicity of domoic acid was studied in 2–3 week old rat hippocampal slice cultures, derived from 7 day old rat pups. Domoic acid 0.1–100 μM was added to the culture medium for 48 hrs, alone or together with the glutamate receptor antagonists NS-102 (5-Nitro-6,7,8,9-tetrahydrobenzo[G]indole-2,3-dione-3-oxime), NBQX (2,3-dihydroxy-6-nitro-7-sulphamoyl-benzo(F)quinoxaline) or MK-801 ((+)-5-methyl-10,11-dihydro-5H-dibenzo[a,d]-cyclohepten-5,10-imine hydrogen maleate), followed by transfer of the cultures to normal medium for additional 48 hrs. Neuronal degeneration in the fascia dentata (FD), CA3 and CA1 hippocampal subfields was monitored and EC50 values estimated by densitometric measurements of the cellular uptake of propidium iodide (PI). The CA1 region was most sensitive to domoic acid, with an EC50 value of 6 μM domoic acid, estimated from the PI-uptake at 72 hrs. Protective effects of 10 μM NBQX against 3 and 10 μM domoic acid were observed for both dentate granule cells and CA1 and CA3c pyramidal cells. NS102 and MK 801 only displayed protective effects when combined with NBQX. MK801 significantly increased the combined neuroprotective effect of NBQX and NS102 against 10 μM domoic acid in both CA1 and FD, but not in CA3. We conclude, that domoic acid neurotoxicity in CA3 and in hippocampal slice cultures in general primarily involves AMPA/kainate receptors. At high concentrations (10 μM domic acid) NMDA receptors are, however, also involved in the toxicity in CA1 and FD.
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