Neurons containing NADPH-diaphorase are selectively resistant to quinolinate toxicity

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Science  03 Oct 1986:
Vol. 234, Issue 4772, pp. 73-76
DOI: 10.1126/science.2875522


Exposure of cultures of cortical cells from mouse to either of the endogenous excitatory neurotoxins quinolinate or glutamate resulted in widespread neuronal destruction; but only in the cultures exposed to quinolinate, an N-methyl-D-aspartate agonist, was there a striking preservation of the subpopulation of neurons containing the enzyme nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide phosphate diaphorase (NADPH-d). Further investigation revealed that neurons containing NADPH-d were also resistant to the toxicity of N-methyl-D-aspartate itself but were selectively vulnerable to the toxicity of either kainate or quisqualate. Thus, neurons containing NADPH-d may have an unusual distribution of receptors for excitatory amino acids, with a relative lack of N-methyl-D-aspartate receptors and a relative preponderance of kainate or quisqualate receptors. Since selective sparing of neurons containing NADPH-d is a hallmark of Huntington's disease, the results support the hypothesis that the disease may be caused by excess exposure to quinolinate or some other endogenous N-methyl-D-aspartate agonist.