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Photo of Burton M. Altura

Burton M. Altura, Ph.D.



Tel: (718) 270-2194 • e-mail:

Role of Magnesium in Atherogenesis, Stroke and Neuroprotection

Our overall interest is the role of magnesium, sphingolipids and lipid messengers in vascular biology and disease processes, such as stroke, diabetes mellitus and atherogenesis. An additional major interest is the role of alcohol and substances of abuse in stroke etiology. To accomplish these ends, whole animals, human subjects, tissues and cell culture techniques are utilized.

Our laboratory is addressing two of the most important issues in vascular biology today: stroke mechanisms; and irreversible cellular destruction in the cardiovascular system caused by alcohol and substance abuse. These studies have already led to the prevention of atherosclerotic lesions, hypertension and stroke-like events in experimental animal models. Additional experimental studies, using manipulations in divalent cation metabolism, have been very effective in the prevention and amelioration of alcohol-, phencyclidine-, cocaine-, and other substance abuse-induced strokes.

We are using intact animals, isolated organs, tissues and cells in culture to understand how divalent cations (Mg2+ and Ca2+), sphingolipids, lipid messengers, protein kinase C and nuclear transcription factors control normal fuctions of vascular smooth muscle cells, cardiac myocytes and several types of neuronal cells. In order to accomplish these goals, we employ various state-of-the-art techniques: NMR spectroscopy; in-vivo high-resolution TV microscopy; digital image microscopy; confocal laser scanning microscopy; culture of primary cells; Mg2+ ion-selective electrodes; mono- and polyclonal antibodies; antisense oligonucleotides; and lipid chemistry. Use of the various models and techniques has led us to hypothesize that magnesium ions can regulate voltage-, receptor-, and leak-operated membrane channels in a number of cell types and that various cellular signaling pathways, particularly isoforms of PKC and sphingolipids are turned on or off by the actions and concentrations of Mg2+ at multiple cellular sites.

Selected Publications

Li, M., Zheng, T., Wang J., Altura, B. T., and Altura, B. M. (1999). Extracellular magnesium regulates effects of vitamin B6, B12 and folate on homocysteinemia-induced depletion of intracellular magnesium ions in canine cerebral smooth muscle cells: possible relationship to [ Ca2+]i, atherogenesis and stroke. Neurosci. Lett. 274, 83-86.

Li, W., Zheng, T., Wang, J., Altura, B. T., and Altura, B. M. (1999). Pyrrolidine dethiocarbamate prevents ethanol-induced elevation of [Ca2+]i in cultured canine carebral vacsular smooth muscle cells. Neurosci. Lett. 266, 205-208.

Yang, Z. W., Wang, J., Zheng, T., Altura, B. T., and Altura, B. M. (2000). Low [Mg2+]o, induces contraction of cerebral arteries: roles of tyrosine and mitogen-activated protein kinases. Am. J. Physiol. Heart Circ. Physiol. 279, H185-H194.

Yang, Z. W., Gebrewold, A., Nowakowski, M., Altura, B. T., and Altura, B. M. (2000). Mg2+-induced endothelium-dependent relaxation of blood vessels and blood pressure lowering: role of NO. Am. J. Physiol. Regulatory Integrative Comp. Physiol. 278, R628-R639.

Zheng, T., Li, W., S., Wang, J., Altura, B. T., and Altura, B. M. (2000). Sphingomyelinase and ceramide analogs induce contraction and rises in [Ca2+]i in canine cerebral vascular muscle. Am. J. Physiol. Heart Circ. Physiol. 278, H1421-H1428.


Wenyan Li, Ph.D., Research Associate
Zhi-wei Yang, M.D., Ph.D., Research Associate

Service Functions

Ad Hoc Reviewer, NIH, NSF, and USDA study sections
Reviewer for various journals and funding organizations


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