[Role of glutamate and excitotoxicity in neurologic diseases]

Rev Neurol (Paris). 1996 Apr;152(4):239-48.
[Article in French]


Glutamate is one of the major excitatory neurotransmitter in the central nervous system. Glutamate acts on 4 different post synaptic receptors; NMDA (N-Methyl-D-aspartate) AMPA (alpha-amino-3-hydroxy-5-methyl-4-isoxazole propionic acid), Kainate and metabotropic receptors. The three former receptors are linked to membrane ion channels whereas metabotropic receptors are coupled with a G protein. Glutamate is involved in the physiologic processes of learning, memory and motricity. Glutamate is also a potent neurotoxin responsible for toxic neuronal death of post synaptic neurons. This action has been denominated excitotoxicity and occurs as a consequence of a prolonged or a strong activation of glutamate post-synaptic receptors. The rise in intracellular calcium seems to play a major role in the pathological events following excitotoxicity. The pathophysiology of several acute or chronic neurological disorders has been linked to excitotoxicity. This excitotoxic process could be present in acute neuronal death observed in stroke, hypoglycemia and traumatisms of the central nervous system and in chronic neuronal degeneration observed in Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS), Alzheimer's disease, Parkinson's disease, Huntington's disease and neuro AIDS. A better knowledge of the cellular events induced by excitotoxicity will allow to consider new therapeutic approaches in various neurological disorders.

Publication types

  • English Abstract
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Acute Disease
  • Chronic Disease
  • Glutamic Acid / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Nervous System Diseases / etiology*
  • Nervous System Diseases / physiopathology
  • Receptors, Glutamate / classification
  • Receptors, Glutamate / physiology


  • Receptors, Glutamate
  • Glutamic Acid