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Keywords:

  • mitochondria;
  • excitotoxicity;
  • glutamate;
  • oxidative stress;
  • uncoupling

Abstract

The pathologic activation of NMDA receptors by glutamate is a major contributor to neuronal cell death after stroke. Receptor activation causes a massive influx of calcium into the neuron that is accumulated by the mitochondria. The favored hypothesis is that the calcium loaded mitochondria generate reactive oxygen species that damage and ultimately killed the neuron. In this review this hypothesis is critically re-examined with an emphasis on the role played by deficits in ATP generation. Novel techniques are developed to monitor the bioenergetic status of in situ mitochondria in cultured neurons. Applying these techniques to a model of glutamate excitotoxicity suggests that enhanced reactive oxygen species are a consequence rather than a cause of failed cytoplasmic calcium homeostasis (delayed calcium deregulation, [DCD]), but that prior oxidative damage facilitates DCD by damaging mitochondrial ATP generation. This impacts on current hypotheses relating to the neuroprotective effects of mild mitochondrial uncoupling. © 2007 Wiley-Liss, Inc.