Effects of Excitatory Amino Acid Agonists and Antagonists on in Vitro Motoneurons

  • A. Nistri


Since the pioneering observations by Hayashi (1954) on the convulsive action of the naturally occurring amino acid glutamate, electrophysiological work by Curtis et al. (1960) and by Krnjević and Phillis (1963) demonstrated an intense excitatory activity produced by this substance when applied to single neurons of the CNS. Effects very similar to those of glutamate were also induced by aspartate, another amino acid endogenous to the brain, and a series of structurally related analogues (Curtis and Watkins, 1963; Krnjević, 1965). Nevertheless, it was thought at that time that glutamate was unlikely to be a major central excitatory neurotransmitter particularly in view of its apparent lack of selectivity, i.e., it excited almost all neurons tested. The perception of the role of glutamate as a central neurotransmitter did, however, change owing to the fundamental work by Jasper et al. (1965), who studied the release of endogenous glutamate from the cat cerebral cortex in vivo. These workers found that significantly higher amounts of endogenous glutamate were released during wakefulness than during sleep; it appeared therefore that the rate of release of this amino acid was closely related to the degree of activity of cortical neurons. Subsequent neurochemical and electrophysiological work has confirmed the view that glutamate is probably an important excitatory transmitter in the vertebrate CNS (for some reviews see: Nistri and Constanti, 1979; Puil, 1981; Watkins and Evans, 1981; Fagg and Foster, 1983; Fonnum, 1984; Nistri, 1985).


Excitatory Amino Acid Spinal Motoneuron Input Conductance Endogenous Glutamate Amino Acid Response 
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Copyright information

© Plenum Press, New York 1988

Authors and Affiliations

  • A. Nistri
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Pharmacology, St. Bartholomew’s Hospital Medical CollegeUniversity of LondonLondonUK

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