In Vitro Neuronal Death: Contrasts Between Excitotoxicity and Chemical Hypoxia

  • S. M. Rothman
  • J. M. Dubinsky
  • R. L. Michaels
Part of the Research and Perspectives in Neurosciences book series (NEUROSCIENCE)


In 1982, while exploring methods of prolonging the survival of cultured hippocampal neurons, we found that our older, but not the newly plated, neurons were extremely vulnerable to inhibition of oxidative metabolism. When cultures at least two weeks in vitro were exposed to sodium cyanide or an atmosphere of 95% nitrogen/5% CO2, neurons swelled and eventually died (Rothman 1983). However, cultures exposed to similar insults one or two days after plating showed little damage over a comparable time period. Of special interest, we found that increasing the extracellular magnesium to 10 mM could dramatically diminish the damage induced by either cyanide or hypoxia. Our initial interpretation of these experimental results was that synaptic activity was in some way producing the neuronal damage and that, by blocking transmitter release, magnesium was protective. The minimal damage seen in young cultures reflected a lack of synaptic connections early on in culture development.


Hippocampal Neuron Excitatory Amino Acid NMDA Antagonist Free Intracellular Calcium Glutamate Toxicity 
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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 1991

Authors and Affiliations

  • S. M. Rothman
  • J. M. Dubinsky
  • R. L. Michaels

There are no affiliations available

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