Synaptically released Zn2+ ions enter into neurons primarily through voltage-gated Ca2+ channels (VGCC) or N-methyl-d-aspartate (NMDA) receptors, which can mediate pathological neuronal death. We studied the possibility (and underlying mechanisms) that aspirin, known to prevent NMDA neurotoxicity, would also attenuate Zn2+ neurotoxicity. Administration of 3 to 10 mM aspirin, in cortical cell cultures, attenuated the evolution of neuronal death following exposure to 300 microM Zn2+ for 30 min. This neuroprotective effect of aspirin was attributable to the prevention of Zn2+ ion entry. Aspirin interfered with inward currents and an increase in [Ca2+]i through VGCC and selective binding of omega-conotoxin, sensitive to N-type Ca2+ channel. The omega-conotoxins GVIA or MVIIC, the selective inhibitors of N-type Ca2+ channels, attenuated Zn2+ neurotoxicity. Aspirin derivatives lacking the carboxyl acid group did not reduce Zn2+ neurotoxicity. The present findings suggest that aspirin prevents Zn2+-mediated neuronal death by interfering with VGCC, and its action specifically requires the carboxyl acid group.
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