Ascorbate (vitamin C) is a nonenzymatic antioxidant highly concentrated in the brain. In addition to mediating redox balance, ascorbate is linked to glutamate neurotransmission in the striatum, where it renders neuroprotection against excessive glutamate stimulation. Oxidative stress and glutamatergic overactivity are key biochemical features accompanying the loss of dopaminergic neurons in the substantia nigra that characterizes Parkinson's disease (PD). At present, it is not clear whether antiglutamate agents and ascorbate might be neuroprotective agents for PD. Thus, we tested whether ascorbate can prevent cell death from prolonged exposure to glutamate using dopaminergic neurons of human origin. To this purpose, dopamine-like neurons were obtained by differentiation of SH-SY5Y cells and then cultured for 4 days without antioxidant (antiaging) protection to evaluate glutamate toxicity and ascorbate protection as a model system of potential factors contributing to dopaminergic neuron death in PD. Glutamate dose dependently induced toxicity in dopaminergic cells largely by the stimulation of AMPA and metabotropic receptors and to a lesser extent by N-methyl-D-aspartate and kainate receptors. At relatively physiological levels of extracellular concentration, ascorbate protected cells against glutamate excitotoxicity. This neuroprotection apparently relies on the inhibition of oxidative stress, because ascorbate prevented the pro-oxidant action of the scavenging molecule quercetin, which occurred over the course of prolonged exposure, as is also seen with glutamate. Our findings show the relevance of ascorbate as a neuroprotective agent and emphasize an often underappreciated role of oxidative stress in glutamate excitotoxicity. Occurrence of a glutamate-ascorbate link in dopaminergic neurons may explain previous contradictions regarding their putative role in PD.
Keywords: AMPA receptor; NMDA receptor; Parkinson's disease; SH-SY5Y; glutamate metabotropic receptors; kainate receptor.
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