Expression of c-fos and hsp70 mRNA in neonatal rat cerebrocortical slices during NMDA-induced necrosis and apoptosis

Koh Hasegawa, Lawrence Litt, Maryceline T. Espanol, Frank R Sharp, Pak H. Chan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

22 Scopus citations


Respiring neonatal rat cerebrocortical slices were exposed for 30 rain to toxic concentrations of N-methyl-D-aspartate (NMDA; 100 μM, 500 μM and 1000 μM). In situ hybridization was used to study c-fos and hsp70 mRNA before, during, and for 8 h after NMDA exposure. Cell swelling and nuclear morphology were assessed using Cresyl violet (Nissl) staining. Possible evidence for apoptosis was examined using in situ terminal transferase d-UTP nick-end labeling (TUNEL) staining and agarose-gel electrophoresis of extracted slice DNA. After NMDA administration c-fos and hsp70 mRNA expression increased, with maxima occurring, respectively, at 1 h and 4 h after NMDA exposure. When treatment with dizocilpine (MK-801; 10 μM), a non- competitive NMDA antagonist, was started before NMDA exposures, expression of both c-fos and hsp70 mRNA was decreased to values near control, indicating that activation of NMDA receptors induces both genes. Only a minority of induced cells expressed FOS protein and no HSP70 protein expression was seen. These apparent failures of translation might be related to the stress response. Histologically, 1000 μM NMDA produced substantial necrosis, with no evidence of apoptosis. Evidence for apoptosis was found at the two lower NMDA concentrations, which produced TUNEL-positive fragmented nuclei and faint ladder patterns in DNA electrophoresis. Dizocilpine pre-treatment blocked NMDA-induced necrosis and attenuated TUNEL-positive staining in slice parenchyma. TUNEL-positive staining with a different morphology was found in the injury layer, a region 50-μm thick where mechanical trauma was inflicted when slices were cut from brain. When slices received dizocilpine immediately after decapitation, TUNEL-positive staining no longer occurred in the injury layer, in agreement with previous cell culture studies that implicated NMDA receptor activation after mechanical trauma to neurons. We conclude that at the toxic doses studied, NMDA receptor activation results primarily in necrosis. However, data at low NMDA concentrations are consistent with a small amount of apoptosis.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)262-278
Number of pages17
JournalBrain Research
Issue number2
StatePublished - Mar 2 1998
Externally publishedYes


  • Apoptosis
  • Brain slices
  • C-fos
  • Hsp70
  • Immediate early genes
  • Neonate
  • NMDA
  • Stress proteins
  • Transcription
  • Translation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience(all)


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