Glutamate is the main excitatory neurotransmitter in mammals. However, excessive activation of glutamate receptors is neurotoxic, leading to neuronal degeneration and death. In many systems, including primary cultures of cerebellar neurons, glutamate neurotoxicity is mainly mediated by excessive activation of NMDA receptors, leading to increased intracellular calcium which binds to calmodulin and activates neuronal nitric oxide synthase (NOS), increasing nitric oxide (NO) which in turn activates guanylate cyclase and increases cGMP. Inhibition of NOS prevents glutamate neurotoxicity, indicating that NO mediates glutamate-induced neuronal death in this system. NO generating agents such as SNAP also induce neuronal death. Compounds that can act as “scavengers” of NO such as Croman 6 (CR-6) prevent glutamate neurotoxicity.
The role of cGMP in the mediation of glutamate neurotoxicity remain controversial. Some reports indicate that cGMP mediates glutamate neurotoxicity while others indicate that cGMP is neuroprotective. We have studied the role of cGMP in the mediation of glutamate and NO neurotoxicity in cerebellar neurons. Inhibition of soluble guanylate cyclase prevents glutamate and NO neurotoxicity. There is a good correlation between inhibition of cGMP formation and neuroprotection. Moreover 8-Br-cGMP, a cell permeable analog of cGMP, induced neuronal death. These results indicate that increased intracellular cGMP is involved in the mechanism of neurotoxicity. Inhibitors of phosphodiesterase increased extracellular but not intracellular cGMP and prevented glutamate neurotoxicity. Addition of cGMP to the medium also prevented glutamate neurotoxicity. These results are compatible with a neurotoxic effect of increased intracellular cGMP and a neuroprotective effect of increased extracellular cGMP.
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Montoliu, C., Llansola, M., Monfort, P. et al. Role of nitric oxide and cyclic GMP in glutamate-induced neuronal death. neurotox res 3, 179–188 (2001). https://doi.org/10.1007/BF03033190
- Cyclic GMP
- guanylate cyclase
- nitric oxide
- NMDA receptors