Hypoglycemia enhances ionotropic but reduces metabotropic glutamate responses in substantia nigra dopaminergic neurons

Silvia Marinelli, Mauro Federici, Patrizia Giacomini, Giorgio Bernardi, Nicola B. Mercuri

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It is widely accepted that energy deprivation causes a neuronal death that is mainly determined by an increase in the extracellular level of glutamate. Consequently an excessive membrane depolarization and a rise in the intracellular concentration of sodium and calcium are produced. In spite of this scenario, the function of excitatory and inhibitory amino acids during an episode of energy failure has not been studied yet at a cellular level. In a model of cerebral hypoglycemia in the rat substantia nigra pars compacta, we measured neuronal responses to excitatory amino acid agonists. Under single-electrode voltage-clamp mode at -60 mV, the application of the ionotropic glutamate receptor agonists N-methyl-D-aspartate, α-amino-3-hydroxy-5-methyl-4-isoxazole propionic acid, kainate, and the metabotropic group I agonist (S)-3,5-dihydroxyphenilglycine (DHPG) produced reversible inward currents in the dopaminergic cells. In addition, an outward current was caused by the superfusion of the metabotropic GABAB agonist baclofen. Glucose deprivation enhanced the inward responses caused by each ionotropic glutamate agonist. In contrast, hypoglycemia depressed the DHPG-induced inward current and the baclofen-induced outward current. These effects of hypoglycemia were reversible. To test whether a failure of the Na+/K+ ATPase pump could account for the modification of the agonist-induced currents during hypoglycemia, we treated the midbrain slices with strophanthidin (1-3 μM). Strophanthidin enhanced the inward currents caused by glutamate agonists. However, it did not modify the GABAB-induced outward current. Our data suggest that glucose deprivation enhances the inward current caused by the stimulation of ionotropic glutamate receptors while it dampens the responses caused by the activation of metabotropic receptors. Thus a substantial component of the augmented neuronal response to glutamate, during energy deprivation, is very likely due to the failure of Na+ and Ca2+ extrusion and might ultimately favor excitotoxic processes in the dopaminergic cells.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1159-1166
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Neurophysiology
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2001

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physiology
  • Neuroscience(all)


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