Beyond the critical point: an overview of excitotoxicity, calcium overload and the downstream consequences.
Over the past several decades, an overwhelming body of research has greatly expanded our understanding of the mechanisms underlying excitotoxicity in brain ischemia as well as in many chronic neurodegenerative diseases. The identification of an array of molecular targets has opened avenues for neuroprotective strategies and, consequently, has sparked considerable interest for their attractive therapeutic means as pharmacological options. The purpose of this work is to provide a general overview of neuronal excitotoxicity and the inevitable downstream consequences of Ca(2+) overload. We also discuss the contribution of Ca(2+) transporters in excitotoxicity. This article is part of a Special Issue entitled "Calcium Pumps and Exchangers in Neuronal Injury and Neurodegeneration".