Glucocorticoid Enhances the Neurotoxic Actions of Quinolinic Acid in the Striatum in a Cell-Specific Manner


Professor Joe Herbert, Department of Anatomy, University of Cambridge, Cambridge, CB2 3DY, UK (e-mail:


This study demonstrates that corticosterone can exacerbate the damaging effects of infused quinolinic acid (QA) on the dorsal striatum. Adult adrenalectomised male rats were pretreated subcutaneously with graded doses of corticosterone (0, 0.5, 2, 5, 20 and 40 mg/kg/day) for 2 days and then received a unilateral infusion of QA (45 nmol) (under Isoflurane/N2O anaesthesia) into the dorsal striatum. A control infusion (vehicle) was made into the striatum on the other side. Corticosterone treatment was continued and they were killed 7 days later. Plasma corticosterone was measured by radioimmunoassay, and thymus weights were used as an integrated measure of glucocorticoid activity. Lesion volumes were measured on neuronal nuclei stained sections, dopamine and cyclic AMP-regulated phosphoprotein 32 (DARRP-32) was used to assess medium spiny neurone survival, NADPH-diaphorase histochemistry to assess medium aspiny neurones and, finally, choline acetyltransferase to assess large aspiny neurones. Adrenalectomised rats showed smaller lesions than control (sham-operated) rats, suggesting significant protection. Increasing doses of corticosterone resulted in larger lesions up to an apparent ceiling effect at higher doses; there was no evidence of a U-shaped dose–response. There was a differential effect of both QA and corticosterone on the cell populations of the striatum. Medium spiny neurones were most vulnerable to the effects of QA and to the exacerbating actions of corticosterone. Medium aspiny neurones were equally vulnerable to QA but corticosterone had no additional effect. Large aspiny neurones were relatively less sensitive to QA and there was no additional action of administered corticosterone. These results show that corticosterone has a selective neuroendangering action within the striatum, but there is no evidence for a protective action of glucocorticoids at lower doses.