, Volume 15, Issue 11, pp 1382–1402 | Cite as

Molecular and cellular mechanisms of excitotoxic neuronal death

  • Yan Wang
  • Zheng-hong QinEmail author
Apoptosis in the aging brain


Glutamate receptor-mediated excitatory neurotransmission plays a key role in neural development, differentiation and synaptic plasticity. However, excessive stimulation of glutamate receptors induces neurotoxicity, a process that has been defined as excitotoxicity. Excitotoxicity is considered to be a major mechanism of cell death in a number of central nervous system diseases including stroke, brain trauma, epilepsy and chronic neurodegenerative disorders. Unfortunately clinical trials with glutamate receptor antagonists, that would logically prevent the effects of excessive receptor activation, have been associated with untoward side effects or little clinical benefit. Therefore, uncovering molecular pathways involved in excitotoxic neuronal death is of critical importance to future development of clinical treatment of many neurodegenerative disorders where excitotoxicity has been implicated. This review discusses the current understanding of the molecular and cellular mechanisms of excitotoxicity and their roles in the pathogenesis of diseases of the central nervous system.


Excitotoxicity Glutamate receptor Mitochondria Protease Neurological disorder 



This work was supported by grants from The Natural Science Foundation of China (No. 30772560; No. 30930035).


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© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Pharmacology and Laboratory of Aging and Nervous Diseases (SZS0703)Soochow University School of MedicineSuzhouChina

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