Cellular factors controlling neuronal vulnerability in the brain: A lesson from the striatum

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In many acute and chronic neurologic disorders, both deficits in energy metabolism and defects in glutamate-mediated excitatory synaptic transmission have been proposed as important pathogenic factors. Brain cells, however, express variable vulnerability to these insults, as indicated by the fact that certain brain areas and even different cell types in the same area are preferentially spared until the very late stages of various diseases. This can be clearly seen in the striatum, where GABAergic projection cells but not cholinergic interneurons are precociously damaged in the course of both acute metabolic insults (such as hypoxia, hypoglycemia, and ischemia) and chronic neurodegenerative disorders (such as Huntington's disease). A well-mapped pattern of cell loss, in fact, is a common finding in the striatum of patients suffering from these pathologic conditions. Physiologic and molecular studies have been directed in recent years to the identification of the cellular mechanisms underlying the cell-type specific vulnerability of striatal cells. These studied recognized that, in striatal spiny and aspiny cells, specific membrane ion channels, glutamate receptor subtypes and subunits, and intracellular enzymatic activities are involved in the cascade of events responsible for opposite responses and vulnerabilities to oxygen or glucose deprivation and to glutamate receptor-mediated toxicity. Specific molecules able to target these cellular factors might be employed as therapeutic agents during acute and chronic neurologic disorders affecting this brain area.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1249-1255
Number of pages7
Issue number9
Publication statusPublished - Nov 14 2000

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience(all)


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