Effects of NMDA and its antagonists on ventral horn cholinergic neurons in organotypic roller tube spinal cord cultures

J. R. Delfs, D. M. Saroff, Y. Nishida, J. Friend, C. Geula*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

10 Scopus citations


Neurotoxic effects of excitatory amino acid (EAA) receptor agonist N-methyl-D-aspartic acid (NMDA) and its antagonists on ventral horn cholinergic neurons were studied in organotypic rollertube cultures of spinal cord (OTC-SCs) using biochemical assays of choline acetyltransferase (ChAT) and acetylcholinesterase (AChE) activity, and AChE histochemistry. NMDA exposure decreased ChAT and AChE activity by 83% and 66%, respectively. Cultures treated with NMDA also showed a marked loss of AChE staining in both dorsal and ventral horns and a significant, dose-dependent decrease in the number of ventral horn AChE-positive neurons (VHANs). NMDA treatment primarily resulted in the loss of small VHANs (< 300 μm2). VHANs with a size and distribution typical of α-motoneurons were relatively well preserved. The effects of NMDA on OTC-SCs appeared to be independent of the age of the cultures. The NMDA antagonist DL-AP5 completely prevented the NMDA-induced loss of ChAT activity, but only attenuated the effect of NMDA on AChE activity. The antagonists DL-AP5, D-AP5 and MK-801, used alone, caused significant loss and/or shrinkage of VHANs. These effects appeared to be distinct from the NMDA mediated toxicity. The results indicate that NMDA and its antagonists exert powerful toxic effects on ventral horn cholinergic neurons. The large cholinergic α-motoneurons, however, appear to be relatively immune to these toxic effects.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)31-51
Number of pages21
JournalJournal of Neural Transmission
Issue number1
StatePublished - 1997


  • Acetylcholinesterase
  • Choline acetyltransferase
  • Excitotoxicity
  • NMDA antagonists
  • Ventral horn motoneurons

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neurology
  • Clinical Neurology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health
  • Biological Psychiatry


Dive into the research topics of 'Effects of NMDA and its antagonists on ventral horn cholinergic neurons in organotypic roller tube spinal cord cultures'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this