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Hoffmann, R. A wiki for the life sciences where authorship matters. Nature Genetics (2008)

Chronic low-dose glutamate is toxic to retinal ganglion cells. Toxicity blocked by memantine.

PURPOSE: It is well known that acute exposure to high concentrations of glutamate is toxic to central mammalian neurons. However, the effect of a chronic, minor elevation over endogenous glutamate levels has not been explored. The authors have suggested that such chronic exposure may play a role in glaucomatous neuronal loss. In the current study, they sought to explore whether a chronic, low-dose elevation in vitreal glutamate was toxic to retinal ganglion cells and whether this toxicity could be prevented with memantine, a glutamate antagonist. METHODS: Rats were injected serially and intravitreally with glutamate to induce chronic elevations in glutamate concentration. A second group of rats was treated with intraperitoneal memantine and glutamate. Control groups received vehicle injection with or without concurrent memantine therapy. After 3 months, the animals were killed, and ganglion cell survival was evaluated. RESULTS: Intravitreal injections raised the intravitreal glutamate levels from an endogenous range of 5 to 12 microM glutamate to 26 to 34 microM. This chronic glutamate elevation killed 42% of the retinal ganglion cells after 3 months. Memantine treatment alone had no effect on ganglion cell survival. However, when memantine was given concurrently with low-dose glutamate, memantine was partially protective against glutamate toxicity. CONCLUSIONS: These data suggest that minor elevations in glutamate concentration can be toxic to ganglion cells if this elevation is maintained for 3 months. Furthermore, memantine is efficacious at protecting ganglion cells from chronic low-dose glutamate toxicity.[1]


  1. Chronic low-dose glutamate is toxic to retinal ganglion cells. Toxicity blocked by memantine. Vorwerk, C.K., Lipton, S.A., Zurakowski, D., Hyman, B.T., Sabel, B.A., Dreyer, E.B. Invest. Ophthalmol. Vis. Sci. (1996) [Pubmed]
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