Evidence has accumulated that Zn2+ plays a central role in neurodegenerative processes following brain injuries including ischaemia or epilepsy. In the present study, we examined patterns and possible mechanisms of Zn2+ neurotoxicity. Inclusion of 30-300 microM Zn2+ for 30 min caused neuronal necrosis apparent by cell body and mitochondrial swelling in cortical cell cultures. This Zn2+ neurotoxicity was not attenuated by antiapoptosis agents, inhibitors of protein synthesis or caspase. Blockade of glutamate receptors or nitric oxide synthase showed no beneficial effect against Zn2+ neurotoxicity. Interestingly, antioxidants, trolox or SKF38393, attenuated Zn(2+)-induced neuronal necrosis. Pretreatment with insulin or brain-derived neurotrophic factor increased the Zn(2+)-induced free radical injury. Kainate or AMPA facilitated Zn2+ entry and potentiated Zn2+ neurotoxicity in a way sensitive to trolox. Reactive oxygen species and lipid peroxidation were generated in the early phase of Zn2+ neurotoxicity. These findings indicate that entry and accumulation of Zn2+ result in generation of toxic free radicals and then cause necrotic neuronal degeneration under certain pathological conditions in the brain.
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