Persistent AMPA receptor stimulation alters [Ca2+]i homeostasis in cultures of embryonic dopaminergic neurons

Gabriel de Erausquin, Gary Brooker, Erminio Costa, Ingeborg Hanbauer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

22 Scopus citations


The effect of the ionotropic glutamate receptor agonist, AMPA, on intracellular Ca2+ concentrations ([Ca2+]i) was studied in dopaminergic neurons present in primary cultures of ventral tegmental mesencephalon of 14 day rat embryos. Exposure of cells to 10 μM AMPA for 1 min increased [Ca2+]i by 2-3 fold in dopaminergic and other neurons and this response was obliterated within 5 min by superfusion with AMPA-free incubation buffer. In dopaminergic neurons, 1 min or 5 min exposure to 50 μM AMPA increased [Ca2+]i 3 to 5 times over control values. This rise in [Ca2+]1 persisted even after a 20 min superfusion with AMPA-free media, whereas, [Ca2+]i in non-dopaminergic neurons was reversed to control values during this time. Preincubation (2 min) of cultured cells with NBQX or the L-type channel blocker, nifedipine, but not with MK-801 blunted the rise of [Ca2+]i in dopaminergic and other neurons. Pretreatment with 2 μM NBQX shifted the dose response curve for AMPA to the right without changing the basal [Ca2+]i. The presence of 10 μM dantrolene, a blocker of Ca2+ release from intracellular stores, did not alter the initial rise of [Ca2+]i elicited by 50 μM AMPA, but prevented the destabilization of Ca2+ homeostasis by facilitating the recovery to normal of basal [Ca2+]i. Exposure to 50 μM AMPA (5 min) caused an irreversible increase of [Ca2+]i in dopaminergic neurons and cell death was manifested by propidium iodide uptake 6-7 h after AMPA exposure. The present results show that in dopaminergic neurons the increase of [Ca2+]i elicited by activation of AMPA receptors is mediated by sustained Ca2+ flux through voltage-gated channels and through a Ca2+-dependent Ca2+ release from intracellular stores. Protracted stimulation of AMPA and kainate receptors caused death of dopaminergic neurons before that of other neurons present in the same culture. The increased vulnerability of dopaminergic neurons to AMPA may represent a mechanism of pathological relevance during ontogenesis.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)303-311
Number of pages9
JournalMolecular Brain Research
Issue number3-4
StatePublished - Feb 1994
Externally publishedYes


  • Calcium
  • Calcium channel
  • Dopaminergic neuron
  • Excitotoxicity
  • Fura-2
  • Glutamate receptor
  • Primary culture

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience
  • Molecular Biology


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