The effect of three different glutamate receptor ligands on mitochondrial membrane potential has been studied in rat pup dissociated cerebellar cells by measuring rhodamine 123 fluorescence. L-glutamate, NMDA (N-methyl-D-aspartate) and kainate (from 10−8 to 10−3 M) decreased in a concentration-dependent manner the mitochondrial membrane potential with EC50 values of 6.7±1.7, 3.8±0.5, and 37.4±14 μM, respectively.
Dizocilpine ((+)MK 801) was able to inhibit the NMDA- and L-glutamate-induced decrease in rhodamine 123 fluorescence, while kainate-induced fluorescence-decreases were unaffected. However, 6-cyano-7-nitroquinoxaline-2,3-dione (CNQX) totally prevented the effect of kainate on mitochondrial membrane potential, but failed to block the L-glutamate effect. It is concluded that, in our cell preparation, L-glutamate exerts its action mainly through NMDA-subtype receptors, and that Ca2+ and Na+ entry through ionotropic glutamate receptors could be responsible for an impairment of mitochondrial membrane potential.