Control of neuron outgrowth by NMDA receptors

R. Cuppini, S. Sartini, P. Ambrogini, E. Falcieri, M. C. Maltarello, G. Gallo

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The role of N-methyl-D-aspartic acid receptors (NMDARs) of glutamate on neuritogenesis was studied in cultured neurons of chick embryo spinal cord using the NMDAR non-competitive antagonist dizocilpine maleate (MK-801). No cell population was fully prevented from neuritogenesis by MK-801. Different aspects of neuritogenesis were quantitatively evaluated. Neurite initiation, elongation and branching were depressed by MK-801. Inhibition was dose-dependent and reversible. A loss of responsiveness of neuritogenesis to MK-801 was found during the second day of treatment at a concentration of 10 μM, but not at higher concentrations. Our findings support the idea that Ca2+ influx through NMDAR associated channels is one of the possible triggers of a cascade resulting in neuritogenesis. The effects of NMDAR blocking on neuritogenesis occurred before synaptogenesis, suggesting a role of excitatory aminoacids in neuron morphological differentiation at early stages of development. Scanning electron microscopy confirmed a reduction in neurite tree complexity in MK-801 treated cells and showed a production of filopodium-like processes in some of these cells.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)31-40
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Submicroscopic Cytology and Pathology
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Jan 1999


  • Chick embryo
  • Glutamate
  • MK-801
  • Neuritogenesis
  • Neuron

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cell Biology
  • Histology
  • Pathology and Forensic Medicine


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