Stereospecific acute neuronotoxicity of 'uncommon' plant amino acids linked to human motor-system diseases

Peter B. Nunn, Mary Seelig, Joy C. Zagoren, Peter S. Spencer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

75 Scopus citations


The l-isomer of β-N-methylamino-l-alanine (BMAA), present in free form in seed of Cycas circinalis, elicits in spinal cord cultures a pattern of acute postsynaptic neuronal vacuolation comparable to that induced by β-N-oxalylamino-l-alanine (BOAA), an excitotoxic amino acid of greater potency isolated from seed of Lathyrus sativus. The neuronotoxic properties of these compounds may be linked to the etiology of motor-system degenerative disorders (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis and lathyrism, respectively) found in human groups that have used these plant seeds for food.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)375-379
Number of pages5
JournalBrain research
Issue number2
StatePublished - May 5 1987



  • Cycas
  • Excitotoxin
  • Lathyrus
  • β-N-Oxalylamino-l-alanine (BOAA)
  • β-N-methylamino-l-alanine (BMAA)

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience(all)
  • Molecular Biology
  • Clinical Neurology
  • Developmental Biology

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