Glutamate and Parkinson's disease

Fabio Blandini, Richard H P Porter, J. Timothy Greenamyre

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Altered glutamatergic neurotransmission and neuronal metabolic dysfunction appear to be central to the pathophysiology of Parkinson's disease (PD). The substantia nigra pars compacta-the area where the primary pathological lesion is located-is particularly exposed to oxidative stress and toxic and metabolic insults. A reduced capacity to cope with metabolic demands, possibly related to impaired mitochondrial function, may render nigral neurons highly vulnerable to the effects of glutamate, which acts as a neurotoxin in the presence of impaired cellular energy metabolism. In this way, glutamate may participate in the pathogenesis of PD. Degeneration of dopamine nigral neurons is followed by striatal dopaminergic denervation, which causes a cascade of functional modifications in the activity of basal ganglia nuclei. As an excitatory neurotransmitter, glutamate plays a pivotal role in normal basal ganglia circuitry. With nigrostriatal dopaminergic depletion, the glutamatergic projections from subthalamic nucleus to the basal ganglia output nuclei become overactive and there are regulatory changes in glutamate receptors in these regions. There is also evidence of increased glutamatergic activity in the striatum. In animal models, blockade of glutamate receptors ameliorates the motor manifestations of PD. Therefore, it appears that abnormal patterns of glutamatergic neurotransmission are important in the symptoms of PD. The involvement of the glutamatergic system in the pathogenesis and symptomatology of PD provides potential new targets for therapeutic intervention in this neuro-degenerative disorder.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)73-94
Number of pages22
JournalMolecular Neurobiology
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Feb 1996


  • Basal ganglia
  • bioenergetics
  • excitatory amino acids
  • excitotoxicity
  • N-methyl-D-aspartate

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience
  • Neuroscience(all)
  • Physiology


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