• Alcohol;
  • NMDA;
  • Neurotrophic effect;
  • Neuroprotection;
  • Fetal alcohol syndrome;
  • Ethanol neurotoxicity

Abstract: NMDA has two beneficial effects on primary neuronal cultures of cerebellar granule cells (CGCs) established from 10-day-old rat pups. First, NMDA is neurotrophic and will enhance survival of CGCs in culture in the absence of ethanol. Second, ethanol exposure will induce cell death in CGC cultures, and NMDA can lessen this ethanol-induced cell loss, i.e., NMDA is neuroprotective. Because NMDA can stimulate production of nitric oxide (NO), which can in turn enhance synthesis of cyclic GMP, this study tested the hypothesis that the NO-cyclic GMP pathway is essential for NMDA-mediated neurotrophism and neuroprotection. Inhibiting the synthesis of NO with NG-nitro-l-arginine methyl ester eliminated both the NMDA-mediated neurotrophic and neuroprotective effects. Similarly, inhibiting production of cyclic GMP with the agent LY83583 also abolished these effects. The NO generator 2,2′-(hydroxynitrosohydrazono)bisethanamine produced neurotrophic and neuroprotective effects that were similar to those induced by NMDA. Also, 8-bromo-cyclic GMP produced neurotrophic and neuroprotective effects that were quite similar to the effects produced by NMDA. In conclusion, NMDA enhances survival of cerebellar granule cells and protects the cells against ethanol-induced cell death by a mechanism(s) that involves the NO-cyclic GMP pathway.