Defense Date


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Pharmacology & Toxicology

First Advisor

Dr. Robert J. DeLorenzo


Glutamate excitotoxicity is the predominant mechanism implicated in neuronal cell death associated with neurological disorders such as stroke, epilepsy, traumatic brain injury and ALS. Excessive stimulation of NMDA subtypes of glutamate receptors leads to protracted intracellular calcium elevations triggering calcium mediated neurotoxic mechanisms culminating in delayed neuronal cell death. In addition, glutamate excitotoxicity induces a NMDA dependent extended neuronal depolarization mediated by continuous calcium influx that correlates with delayed neuronal death. Attempts to prevent neuronal death by blocking calcium entry into the neurons using calcium channel blockers or NMDA receptor antagonists have failed to provide any beneficial effects in clinical trials. Thus, calcium continues to enter the neurons despite the presence of calcium entry blockers. This phenomenon is known as the "calcium paradox of stroke" and represents a major problem in developing effective therapies for treatment of stroke. Here employing a combination of patch clamp recordings, fluorescent calcium imaging and neuronal cell death assays in well-characterized in vivo and in vitro models of glutamate excitotoxicity, we report the discovery of a novel calcium permeable ion channel that is activated by excitotoxic glutamate injury and mediates a calcium current that is an early initiating step in causing neuronal death. Blocking this calcium permeable channel with high concentrations of Zn2+ or Gd3+ by removing extracellular calcium for a significant time period after the initial injury is effective in preventing calcium entry, apoptosis and neuronal death, thus accounting for the calcium paradox. This injury induced-calcium permeable channel provides a unique mechanism for calcium entry following stroke and offers a new target for extending the therapeutic window for preventing neuronal death after the initial excitotoxic (stroke) injury.


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Is Part Of

VCU University Archives

Is Part Of

VCU Theses and Dissertations

Date of Submission

June 2008