Metabotropic glutamate receptors in neurodegeneration/neuroprotection: Still a hot topic?

Filippo Caraci, Giuseppe Battaglia, Maria Angela Sortino, Simona Spampinato, Gemma Molinaro, Agata Copani, Ferdinando Nicoletti, Valeria Bruno

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

64 Scopus citations


Moving from early studies, we here review the most recent evidence linking metabotropic glutamate (mGlu) receptors to processes of neurodegeneration/ neuroprotection. The use of knockout mice and subtype-selective drugs has increased our knowledge of the precise role played by individual mGlu receptor subtypes in these processes. Activation of mGlu1 and mGlu5 receptors may either amplify or reduce neuronal damage depending on the context and the nature of the toxic insults. In contrast, mGlu1 and mGlu5 receptors antagonists are consistently protective in in vitro and in vivo models of neuronal death. A series of studies suggest that mGlu1 receptor antagonists or negative allosteric modulators (NAMs) are promising candidates for the treatment of ischemic brain damage, whereas mGlu5 receptor NAMs, which have been clinically developed for the treatment of Parkinson's disease (PD) and l-DOPA-induced dyskinesias, protect nigro-striatal dopaminergic neurons against 1-methyl-4-phenyl-1,2,3,6- tetrahydropyridine (MPTP) toxicity in mice and monkeys. Activation of glial mGlu3 receptors promotes the formation of various neurotrophic factors, such as transforming growth factor-β (TGF-β), glial-derived neurotrophic factor (GDNF), nerve growth factor (NGF), and brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF). Hence, selective mGlu3 receptor agonists or positive allosteric modulators (PAMs) (not yet available) are potentially helpful in the treatment of chronic neurodegenerative disorders such as PD, Alzheimer's disease (AD), and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis. Selective mGlu2 receptor PAMs should be used with caution in AD patients because these drugs are shown to amplify β-amyloid neurotoxicity. Finally, mGlu4 receptor agonists/PAMs share with mGlu5 receptor NAMs the ability to improve motor symptoms associated with PD and attenuate nigro-striatal degeneration at the same time. No data are yet available on the role of mGlu7 and mGlu8 receptors in neurodegeneration/ neuroprotection.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)559-565
Number of pages7
JournalNeurochemistry International
Issue number4
StatePublished - Sep 1 2012


  • Brain ischemia
  • Chronic neurodegenerative disorders
  • Metabotropic glutamate receptors
  • Neurodegeneration
  • Neuroprotection
  • Neurotrophic factors

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience
  • Cell Biology


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