Targeting glutamate receptors to tackle the pathogenesis, clinical symptoms and levodopa-induced dyskinesia associated with Parkinson's disease

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The appearance of levodopa-induced dyskinesia (LID) and ongoing degeneration of nigrostriatal dopaminergic neurons are two key features of Parkinson's disease (PD) that current treatments fail to address. Increased glutamate transmission contributes to the motor symptoms in PD, to the striatal plasticity that underpins LID and to the progression of neurodegeneration through excitotoxic mechanisms. Glutamate receptors have therefore long been considered as potential targets for pharmacological intervention in PD, with emphasis on either blocking activation of 2-amino-3-(5-methyl-3-oxo-1,2-oxazol-4-yl)propanoic acid (AMPA), N-methyl-D-aspartate (NMDA) or excitatory metabotropic glutamate (mGlu) 5 receptors or promoting the activation of group II/III mGlu receptors. Following a brief summary of the role of glutamate in PD and LID, this article explores the current status of pharmacological studies in pre-clinical rodent and primate models through to clinical trials, where applicable, that support the potential of glutamate-based therapeutic interventions. To date, AMPA antagonists have shown good efficacy against LID in rat and primate models, but the failure of perampanel to lessen LID in clinical trials casts doubt on the translational potential of this approach. In contrast, antagonists selective for NR2B-containing NMDA receptors were effective against LID in animal models and in small-scale clinical trials, though observed adverse cognitive effects need addressing. So far, mGlu5 antagonists or negative allosteric modulators (NAMs) look set to become the first introduced for tackling LID, with AFQ-056 reported to exhibit good efficacy in phase II clinical trials. NR2B antagonists and mGlu5 NAMs may subsequently prove to also be effective disease-modifying agents if their protective effects in rat and primate models of PD, respectively, are replicated in the next stages of investigation. Finally, group III mGlu4 agonists or positive allosteric modulators (PAMs), although in the early pre-clinical stages of investigation, are showing good efficacy against motor symptoms, neurodegeneration and LID. It is anticipated that the recent development of mGlu4 PAMs with improved systemic bioavailability will facilitate progression of these agents into the primate model of PD where their potential can be further explored.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1017-32
Number of pages16
JournalCNS Drugs
Issue number12
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2012


  • Animals
  • Levodopa
  • Receptors, Metabotropic Glutamate
  • Dyskinesia, Drug-Induced
  • Parkinson Disease
  • Humans
  • Receptors, Glutamate
  • Antiparkinson Agents
  • Receptors, AMPA
  • Receptors, N-Methyl-D-Aspartate

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