Using in vitro models, our laboratory in collaboration with those of Pierluigi Nicotera (University of Konstanz, Germany) and Stan Orrenius (Karolinska Institute) has recently shown that fulminant insults to the nervous system from excitotoxins or free radicals result in neuronal cell death from necrosis, while more subtle insults result in delayed apopto‐sis. Over the past dozen or so years, mounting evidence has suggested that excitotoxins, such as glu‐tamate, result in neuronal cell death after stroke. More recent evidence has suggested that in addition to necrotic cell death in the ischemic core, a number of neurons may also undergo apoptosis. Thus, the hypothesis that intense injury leads to necrosis while mild insult (perhaps in the penumbra) leads to apoptosis may hold in focal cerebral ischemia. Another neurological malady with mounting evidence for a pathogenesis that is mediated at least in part by excitotoxins is HIV‐1 ‐associated cognitive/motor complex (originally termed the AIDS Dementia Complex and, for convenience, designated here AIDS dementia). AIDS dementia appears to be associated with several neuropatho‐logical abnormalities, including giant cell formation by microglia, astrogliosis, and neuronal injury or loss. Recently, neuronal and other cell injury in AIDS brains has been shown to result in apoptotic‐like cell death. How can HIV‐1 result in neuronal damage if neurons themselves are only rarely, if ever, infected by the virus? Experiments from several different laboratories, including our group in collaboration with that of Howard Gendelman (University of Nebraska Medical Center), have lent support to the existence of HIV‐ and immune‐related toxins in a variety of in vitro and in vivo paradigms. In one recently defined pathway to neuronal injury, HIV‐infected macrophages/microglia as well as macrophages activated by HIV‐1 envelope protein gp120 appear to secrete exci‐tants/neurotoxins. These substances may include arachidonic acid, platelet‐activating factor, free radicals (NO‐ and O2˜), glutamate, quinolinate, cys‐teine, cytokines (TNF‐á, 111‐β, IL‐6), amines, and as yet unidentified factors emanating from stimulated macrophages and possibly reactive astrocytes. A final common pathway for neuronal susceptibility appears to be operative, similar to that observed in stroke and several neurodegenerative diseases. This mechanism involves excessive activation of N‐methyl‐D‐aspartate (NMDA) receptor‐operated channels, with resultant excessive influx of Ca2+ and the generation of free radicals, leading to neuronal damage. With the very recent development of clinically‐tolerated NMDA antagonists, as discussed here, there is hope for future pharmacological intervention.
Brain Pathology – Wiley
Published: Oct 1, 1996
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