Neuronal cell death in neurodegenerative disorders and oxidative stress

Mechanisms of the process of neuronal degeneration in neurodegenerative disorders such as amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), Parkinson’s disease (PD), and Alzheimer’s disease (AD) remain unsolved. Oxidative stress might be a possible mechanism of neuronal cell death.

Glutamate is an excitatory amino acid and its excessive release can cause intracellular calcium influx, activation of calcium-dependent enzymes such as nitric oxide (NO) synthase (NOS), and production of toxic oxygen radicals. Excessive release of glutamate, therefore, can be used as a model of experimental oxidative stress.

Continuous exposure to low levels of glutamate potentiates selective motor neuronal death mediated by NO, which inversely protects nonmotor neurons through the guanylyl cyclase-cGMP cascade. Mesencephalic dopaminergic neurons are resistant to cytotoxicity induced by NO. The protecting mechanism from NO neurotoxicity in dopaminergic neurons is based on inhibition of conversion of NO to peroxynitrite anion, and is possibly due to suppression of superoxide anion production.

Dopamine D 2 agonists provide protection mediated not only by the inhibition of dopamine turnover but also via D 2-type dopamine receptor stimulation and the subsequent synthesis of proteins that scavenge free radicals. In addition, nicotinic receptor stimulation may be able to protect neurons from oxidative stress induced by A beta.

Source: Rinsho Shinkeigaku 1999 Jan;39(1):4-6

PMID: 10377784, UI: 99305547

(Department of Neurology, Faculty of Medicine, Kyoto University.)

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