Neurotensin receptor mechanisms and its modulation of glutamate transmission in the brain: relevance for neurodegenerative diseases and their treatment

Prog Neurobiol. 2007 Oct;83(2):92-109. doi: 10.1016/j.pneurobio.2007.06.006. Epub 2007 Jun 28.


The extracellular accumulation of glutamate and the excessive activation of glutamate receptors, in particular N-methyl-D-aspartate (NMDA) receptors, have been postulated to contribute to the neuronal cell death associated with chronic neurodegenerative disorders such as Parkinson's disease. Findings are reviewed indicating that the tridecaptide neurotensin (NT) via activation of NT receptor subtype 1 (NTS1) promotes and reinforces endogenous glutamate signalling in discrete brain regions. The increase of striatal, nigral and cortical glutamate outflow by NT and the enhancement of NMDA receptor function by a NTS1/NMDA interaction that involves the activation of protein kinase C may favour the depolarization of NTS1 containing neurons and the entry of calcium. These results strengthen the hypothesis that NT may be involved in the amplification of glutamate-induced neurotoxicity in mesencephalic dopamine and cortical neurons. The mechanisms involved may include also antagonistic NTS1/D2 interactions in the cortico-striatal glutamate terminals and in the nigral DA cell bodies and dendrites as well as in the nigro-striatal DA terminals. The possible increase in NT levels in the basal ganglia under pathological conditions leading to the NTS1 enhancement of glutamate signalling may contribute to the neurodegeneration of the nigro-striatal dopaminergic neurons found in Parkinson's disease, especially in view of the high density of NTS1 receptors in these neurons. The use of selective NTS1 antagonists together with conventional drug treatments could provide a novel therapeutic approach for treatment of Parkinson's disease.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Brain / drug effects
  • Brain / physiology
  • Brain / physiopathology*
  • Glutamic Acid / physiology
  • Humans
  • Neurodegenerative Diseases / drug therapy
  • Neurodegenerative Diseases / physiopathology
  • Neurotransmitter Agents / therapeutic use
  • Rats
  • Receptor Cross-Talk / physiology
  • Receptors, Glutamate / physiology*
  • Receptors, Neurotensin / drug effects
  • Receptors, Neurotensin / physiology*
  • Signal Transduction / physiology
  • Synaptic Transmission / physiology*


  • Neurotransmitter Agents
  • Receptors, Glutamate
  • Receptors, Neurotensin
  • Glutamic Acid