Glutamate-mediated neurodegeneration resulting from excessive activation of glutamate receptors is recognized as one of the major causes of various neurological disorders such as Alzheimer's and Huntington's diseases. However, the underlying mechanisms in the neurodegenerative process remain unidentified. Here, we investigate the real-time dynamic structural and mechanical changes associated with the neurodegeneration induced by the activation of N-methyl-D-aspartate (NMDA) receptors (a subtype of glutamate receptors) at the nanoscale. Atomic force microscopy (AFM) is employed to measure the three-dimensional (3-D) topography and mechanical properties of live SH-SY5Y cells under stimulus of NMDA receptors. A significant increase in surface roughness and stiffness of the cell is observed after NMDA treatment, which indicates the time-dependent neuronal cell behavior under NMDA-mediated neurodegeneration. The present AFM based study further advance our understanding of the neurodegenerative process to elucidate the pathways and mechanisms that govern NMDA induced neurodegeneration, so as to facilitate the development of novel therapeutic strategies for neurodegenerative diseases.
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