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We examined the biology of AMPA/kainate-induced motor neuron degeneration using dissociated spinal cord cultures and motor neuron-specific antibodies which enable characterization of individual motor neurons in culture. Cobalt, which is thought to pass through Ca2 -permeable AMPA/kainate receptors following kainate exposure, labeled motor neurons in spinal cord cultures. The analysis of AMPA subunit distribution in dissociated motor neurons revealed a unique pattern of glutamate receptor (GluR) subunits in those cells; the GluR1 subunit was found in all spinal cord neurons, but the GluR2 subunit was not found in identified dissociated motor neurons. These data suggest that selective sensitivity of motor neurons to non-NMDA receptor activation is due, at least in part, to the presence of Ca2 -permeable AMPA/kainate receptors.

(C) 1999 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.