Vulnerability of medium spiny striatal neurons to glutamate: Role of Na+/K+ ATPase

P. Calabresi, M. De Murtas, A. Pisani, A. Stefani, G. Sancesario, N. B. Mercuri, G. Bernardi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


In Huntingdon's disease neuronal degeneration mainly involves medium-sized spiny neurons. It has been postulated that both excitotoxic mechanisms and energy metabolism failure are implicated in the neuronal degeneration observed in Huntingdon's disease. In central neurons, > 40% of the energy released by respiration is used by Na+/K+ ATPase to maintain ionic gradients. Considering that impairment of Na+/K+ ATPase activity might alter postsynaptic responsivity to excitatory amino acids (EAAs), we investigated the effects of the Na+/K+ ATPase inhibitors, ouabain and strophanthidin, on the responses to different agonists of EAA receptors in identified medium-sized spiny neurons electrophysiologically recorded in the current- and voltage-clamp modes. In most of the cells both ouabain and strophanthidin (1-3 μM) did not cause significant change in the membrane properties of the recorded neurons. Higher doses of either ouabain (30 μM) or strophanthidin (30 μM) induced, per se, an irreversible inward current coupled to an increase in conductance, leading to cell deterioration. Moreover, both ouabain (1-10 μM) and strophanthidin (1-10 μM) dramatically increased the membrane depolarization and the current produced by subcritical concentrations of glutamate, AMPA and NMDA. These concentrations of Na+/K+ ATPase inhibitors also increased the membrane responses induced by repetitive cortical activation. In addition, since it had previously been proposed that dopamine mimics the effects of Na+/K+ ATPase inhibitors and that dopamine agonists differentially regulate the postsynaptic responses to EAAs, we tested the possible modulation of EAA-induced membrane depolarization and inward current by dopamine agonists. Neither dopamine nor selective dopamine agonists or antagonists affected the postsynaptic responses to EAAs. Our experiments show that impairment of the activity of Na+/K+ ATPase may render striatal neurons more sensitive to the action of glutamate, lowering the threshold for the excitotoxic events. Our data support neither the role of dopamine as an ouabain-like agent nor the differential modulatory action of dopamine receptors on the EAA-induced responses in the striatum.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1674-1683
Number of pages10
JournalEuropean Journal of Neuroscience
Issue number8
Publication statusPublished - 1995


  • AMPA
  • Dopamine
  • Excitatory amino acids
  • Excitoxicity
  • Huntington's disease
  • Neurodegenerative disorders
  • NMDA
  • Ouabain
  • Striatum
  • Strophanthidin

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience(all)


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