Low Ca2+ buffering and excitotoxicity under physiological stress and pathophysiological conditions in motor neuron (MNs). Low Ca2+ buffering in amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) vulnerable hypoglossal MNs exposes mitochondria to higher Ca2+ loads compared to highly buffered cells. Under normal physiological conditions, the neurotransmitter opens glutamate, NMDA and AMPA receptor channels, and voltage dependent Ca2+ channels (VDCC) with high glutamate release, which is taken up again by EAAT1 and EAAT2. This results in a small rise in intracellular calcium that can be buffered in the cell. In ALS, a disorder in the glutamate receptor channels leads to high calcium conductivity, resulting in high Ca2+ loads and increased risk for mitochondrial damage. This triggers the mitochondrial production of reactive oxygen species (ROS), which then inhibit glial EAAT2 function. This leads to further increases in the glutamate concentration at the synapse and further rises in postsynaptic calcium levels, contributing to the selective vulnerability of MNs in ALS.
Jaiswal et al. BMC Neuroscience 2009 10:64 doi:10.1186/1471-2202-10-64