It is widely believed that calcium plays a primary role in the development of neuronal cell injury in different pathological states of the brain. Disturbances of calcium homeostasis may be induced in three different subcellular compartments, the cytoplasm, mitochondria or the endoplasmic reticulum (ER). The traditional calcium hypothesis holds that neuronal cell injury is induced by a marked increase in cytoplasmic calcium activity during stress (e.g., cerebral ischemia). Recently, this hypothesis has been modified, taking into account that under different experimental conditions the extent of cell injury does not correlate closely with calcium load or total calcium influx into the cell, and that neuronal cell injury has been found to be associated with both increases and decreases of cytoplasmic calcium activity. The mitochondrial calcium hypothesis is based on the observation that after a severe form of stress there is a massive influx of calcium ions into mitochondria, which may lead to production of free radicals, opening of the mitochondrial permeability transition (MPT) pore and disturbances of energy metabolism. However, it has still to be established whether drugs such as cyclosporin A are neuroprotective through their effect on MPT or through the blocking of processes upstream of MPT. The ER calcium hypothesis arose from the observation that ER calcium stores are depleted after severe forms of stress, and that the response of cells to disturbances of ER calcium homeostasis (activation of the expression of genes coding for ER resident stress proteins and suppression of the initiation of protein synthesis) resembles their response to a severe form of stress (e.g., transient ischemia) implying common underlying mechanisms. Elucidating the exact mechanisms of calcium toxicity and identifying the subcellular compartment playing the most important role in this pathological process will help to evaluate strategies for specific therapeutic intervention.
Brain Research Bulletin – Elsevier
Published: Nov 1, 2000
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