Indexed on: 16 May '06Published on: 16 May '06Published in: Neuroscience
When excitotoxic mechanisms are blocked, severe or prolonged hypoxia and hypoxia-ischemia can still kill neurons, by a mechanism which is poorly understood. We studied this "non-excitotoxic hypoxic death" in primary cultures of rat dentate gyrus neurons. Many neurons subjected to hypoxia in the presence of blockers of ionotropic glutamate receptors developed the electron microscopic features of necrosis. They showed early mitochondrial swelling, loss of mitochondrial membrane potential and cytoplasmic release of cytochrome c, followed by activation of caspase-9, and by caspase-9-dependent activation of caspase-3. Caspase inhibitors were neuroprotective. These results suggest that "non-excitotoxic hypoxic neuronal death" requires the activation in many neurons of a cell death program originating in mitochondria and leading to necrosis.