Class of substances that damage neurones through paroxysmal overactivity. They are toxins that bind to certain receptors (e.g., certain glutamate receptors) and may cause neuronal cell death.

The best known excitotoxins are the excitatory amino acids, that can produce lesions in the CNS similar to those of Huntingdon's chorea or Alzheimer's disease.

Excitotoxicity is thought to contribute to neuronal cell death associated with stroke.

This entry appears with permission from the Dictionary of Cell and Molecular Biology

(11 Mar 2008)