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Concept: Glutamate transporter


The consumption of caffeine (an adenosine receptor antagonist) correlates inversely with depression and memory deterioration, and adenosine A2A receptor (A2AR) antagonists emerge as candidate therapeutic targets because they control aberrant synaptic plasticity and afford neuroprotection. Therefore we tested the ability of A2AR to control the behavioral, electrophysiological, and neurochemical modifications caused by chronic unpredictable stress (CUS), which alters hippocampal circuits, dampens mood and memory performance, and enhances susceptibility to depression. CUS for 3 wk in adult mice induced anxiogenic and helpless-like behavior and decreased memory performance. These behavioral changes were accompanied by synaptic alterations, typified by a decrease in synaptic plasticity and a reduced density of synaptic proteins (synaptosomal-associated protein 25, syntaxin, and vesicular glutamate transporter type 1), together with an increased density of A2AR in glutamatergic terminals in the hippocampus. Except for anxiety, for which results were mixed, CUS-induced behavioral and synaptic alterations were prevented by (i) caffeine (1 g/L in the drinking water, starting 3 wk before and continued throughout CUS); (ii) the selective A2AR antagonist KW6002 (3 mg/kg, p.o.); (iii) global A2AR deletion; and (iv) selective A2AR deletion in forebrain neurons. Notably, A2AR blockade was not only prophylactic but also therapeutically efficacious, because a 3-wk treatment with the A2AR antagonist SCH58261 (0.1 mg/kg, i.p.) reversed the mood and synaptic dysfunction caused by CUS. These results herald a key role for synaptic A2AR in the control of chronic stress-induced modifications and suggest A2AR as candidate targets to alleviate the consequences of chronic stress on brain function.

Concepts: Brain, Receptor, Hippocampus, Receptor antagonist, Glutamate transporter, Adenosine receptor, Adenosine A2A receptor, Adenosine A1 receptor


Motoneuron loss and reactive astrocytosis are pathological hallmarks of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), a paralytic neurodegenerative disease that can be triggered by mutations in Cu-Zn superoxide dismutase (SOD1). Dysfunctional astrocytes contribute to ALS pathogenesis, inducing motoneuron damage and accelerating disease progression. However, it is unknown whether ALS progression is associated with the appearance of a specific astrocytic phenotype with neurotoxic potential. Here, we report the isolation of astrocytes with aberrant phenotype (referred as “AbA cells”) from primary spinal cord cultures of symptomatic rats expressing the SOD1(G93A) mutation. Isolation was based on AbA cells' marked proliferative capacity and lack of replicative senescence, which allowed oligoclonal cell expansion for 1 y. AbA cells displayed astrocytic markers including glial fibrillary acidic protein, S100β protein, glutamine synthase, and connexin 43 but lacked glutamate transporter 1 and the glial progenitor marker NG2 glycoprotein. Notably, AbA cells secreted soluble factors that induced motoneuron death with a 10-fold higher potency than neonatal SOD1(G93A) astrocytes. AbA-like aberrant astrocytes expressing S100β and connexin 43 but lacking NG2 were identified in nearby motoneurons, and their number increased sharply after disease onset. Thus, AbA cells appear to be an as-yet unknown astrocyte population arising during ALS progression with unprecedented proliferative and neurotoxic capacity and may be potential cellular targets for slowing ALS progression.

Concepts: Superoxide dismutase, Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, Gap junction, Glutamate transporter, Astrocyte, Excitotoxicity, Glial fibrillary acidic protein, SOD1


Neurotransmitter switching in the adult mammalian brain occurs following photoperiod-induced stress, but the mechanism of regulation is unknown. Here, we demonstrate that elevated activity of dopaminergic neurons in the paraventricular nucleus of the hypothalamus (PaVN) in the adult rat is required for the loss of dopamine expression after long-day photoperiod exposure. The transmitter switch occurs exclusively in PaVN dopaminergic neurons that coexpress vesicular glutamate transporter 2 (VGLUT2), is accompanied by a loss of dopamine type 2 receptors (D2Rs) on corticotrophin-releasing factor (CRF) neurons, and can lead to increased release of CRF. Suppressing activity of all PaVN glutamatergic neurons decreases the number of inhibitory PaVN dopaminergic neurons, indicating homeostatic regulation of transmitter expression in the PaVN.

Concepts: Nervous system, Neuron, Hypothalamus, Brain, Action potential, Neurotransmitter, Glutamate transporter, Dopamine


Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) is a common neurodegenerative disorder characterized mainly by a progressive loss of motor neurons. Glutamate excitotoxicity is likely the main cause of neuronal death, and Riluzole interferes with glutamate-mediated transmission. Thus, in such independent pathway, these effects may be partly due to inactivation of voltage-dependent sodium channels. Here we predict the structural model of the interaction and report the possible binding sites of Riluzole on Nav1.6 channel. The docked complexes were subjected to minimization and we further investigated the key interacting residues, binding free energies, pairing bridge determination, folding pattern, hydrogen bounding formation, hydrophobic contacts and flexibilities. Our results demonstrate that Riluzole interacts with the Nav1.6 channel, more specifically in the key residues TYR 1787, LEU 1843 and GLN 1799, suggesting possible cellular implications driven by these amino acids on Riluzole-Nav1.6 interaction, which may serve as an important output for a more specific and experimental drug design therapy against ALS.

Concepts: Amino acid, Action potential, Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, Sodium, Sodium channel, Glutamate transporter, Excitotoxicity, Riluzole


Synaptic loss, plaques and neurofibrillary tangles are viewed as hallmarks of Alzheimer’s disease (AD). This study investigated synaptic markers in neocortical Brodmann area 9 (BA9) samples from 171 subjects with and without AD at different levels of cognitive impairment. The expression levels of vesicular glutamate transporters (VGLUT1&2), glutamate uptake site (EAAT2), post-synaptic density protein of 95 kD (PSD95), vesicular GABA/glycine transporter (VIAAT), somatostatin (som), synaptophysin and choline acetyl transferase (ChAT) were evaluated. VGLUT2 and EAAT2 were unaffected by dementia. The VGLUT1, PSD95, VIAAT, som, ChAT and synaptophysin expression levels significantly decreased as dementia progressed. The maximal decrease varied between 12% (synaptophysin) and 42% (som). VGLUT1 was more strongly correlated with dementia than all of the other markers (polyserial correlation = -0.41). Principal component analysis using these markers was unable to differentiate the CDR groups from one another. Therefore, the status of the major synaptic markers in BA9 does not seem to be linked to the cognitive status of AD patients. The findings of this study suggest that the loss of synaptic markers in BA9 is a late event that is only weakly related to AD dementia.

Concepts: Alzheimer's disease, Brain, Neurology, Acetylcholine, Glutamate transporter, Excitotoxicity, Brodmann area, Neurofibrillary tangle


Clinicoanatomic correlation in the spinocerebellar ataxias (SCA) and Friedreich’s ataxia (FRDA) is difficult as these diseases differentially affect multiple sites in the central and peripheral nervous systems. A new way to study cerebellar ataxia is the systematic analysis of the “reciprocal cerebellar circuitry” that consists of tightly organized reciprocal connections between Purkinje cells, dentate nuclei (DN), and inferior olivary nuclei (ION). This circuitry is similar to but not identical with the “cerebellar module” in experimental animals. Neurohumoral transmitters operating in the circuitry are both inhibitory (γ-aminobutyric acid in corticonuclear and dentato-olivary fibers) and excitatory (glutamate in olivocerebellar or climbing fibers). Glutamatergic climbing fibers also issue collaterals to the DN. The present study applied five immunohistochemical markers in six types of SCA (1, 2, 3, 6, 7, 17), genetically undefined SCA, FRDA, and FRDA carriers to identify interruptions within the circuitry: calbindin-D28k, neuron-specific enolase, glutamic acid decarboxylase, and vesicular glutamate transporters 1 and 2. Lesions of the cerebellar cortex, DN, and ION were scored according to a guide as 0 (normal), 1 (mild), 2 (moderate), and 3 (severe). Results of each of the five immunohistochemical stains were examined separately for each of the three regions. Combining scores of each anatomical region and each stain yielded a total score as an indicator of pathological severity. Total scores ranged from 16 to 38 in SCA-1 (nine cases); 22 to 39 in SCA-2 (six cases); 9 to 15 in SCA-3 (four cases); and 13 and 25 in SCA-6 (two cases). In single cases of SCA-7 and SCA-17, scores were 16 and 31, respectively. In two genetically undefined SCA, scores were 36 and 37, respectively. In nine cases of FRDA, total scores ranged from 11 to 19. The low scores in SCA-3 and FRDA reflect selective atrophy of the DN. The FRDA carriers did not differ from normal controls. These observations offer a semiquantitative assessment of the critical role of the DN in the ataxic phenotype of SCA and FRDA while other parts of the circuitry appear less important.

Concepts: Neuron, Ataxia, Cerebellum, Glutamate transporter, Glutamic acid, Purkinje cell, Spinocerebellar ataxia, Inferior olivary nucleus


The Bergmann glia is equipped with Ca(2+)-permeable AMPA receptors for glutamate, indispensable for structural and functional relations between the Bergmann glia and parallel/climbing fibers-Purkinje cell synapses. To better understand roles for the Bergmann AMPA receptors, herein we investigate on gliotransmitter release and Ca(2+) signals in isolated Bergmann glia processes obtained from adult rat cerebellum. We found that: 1) the rat cerebellar purified astrocyte processes (gliosomes) expressed astrocytic and Bergmann markers and exhibited negligible contamination by nerve terminals, microglia, or oligodendrocytes; 2) activation of Ca(2+)-permeable AMPA receptors caused Ca(2+) signals in the processes, and the release of glutamate from the processes; 3) effectiveness of rose bengal, trypan blue or bafilomycin A1, indicated that activation of the AMPA receptors evoked vesicular glutamate release. Cerebellar purified nerve terminals appeared devoid of glutamate-releasing Ca(2+)-permeable AMPA receptors, indicating that neuronal contamination may not be the source of the signals detected. Ultrastructural analysis indicated the presence of vesicles in the cytoplasm of the processes; confocal imaging confirmed the presence of vesicular glutamate transporters in Bergmann glia processes. We conclude that: a vesicular mechanism for release of the gliotransmitter glutamate is present in mature Bergmann processes; entry of Ca(2+) trough the AMPA receptors located on Bergmann processes is coupled with vesicular glutamate release. The findings would add a new role for a well-known Bergmann target for glutamate (the Ca(2+)-permeable AMPA receptors) and a new actor (the gliotransmitter glutamate) at the cerebellar excitatory synapses onto Purkinje cells.

Concepts: Nervous system, Neuron, Action potential, Cerebellum, Gap junction, Glutamate transporter, Purkinje cell, Parallel fiber


Glutamate neurotoxicity plays an important role in the pathogenesis of various neurodegenerative disorders. Many studies have demonstrated that glutamate transporter-1 (GLT-1), the dominant astrocytic glutamate transporter, is significantly reduced in the cerebral cortex of patients with Alzheimer’s disease (AD), suggesting that glutamate-mediated excitotoxicity might contribute to the pathogenesis of AD. In a previous study, we have demonstrated marked alterations in the expression of the astrocytic water channel protein aquaporin-4 (AQP4) in relation to amyloid β deposition in human AD brains. As a functional complex, GLT-1 and AQP4 in astrocytes may play a neuroprotective role in the progression of AD pathology. However, few studies have examined the correlation between the expression of GLT-1 and that of AQP4 in human AD brain.

Concepts: Alzheimer's disease, Cerebral cortex, Neurology, Temporal lobe, Cerebrum, Hippocampus, Glutamate transporter, Excitotoxicity


Angiogenin (ANG), a member of the RNase superfamily (also known as RNase 5) has neurotrophic, neuroprotective and angiogenic activities. Recently it has also been shown to be important in stem cell homeostasis. Mutations in ANG are associated with neurodegenerative diseases such as Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS) and Fronto-temporal dementia (FTD). ANG is a secreted protein which is taken up by cells and translocated to the nucleus. However, the import pathway/s through which ANG is taken up is/are still largely unclear. We have characterised the uptake of ANG in neuronal, astrocytic and microglial cell lines as well as primary neurons and astrocytes using pharmacological agents as well as dominant negative dynamin and Rab5 to perturb uptake and intracellular trafficking. We find that uptake of ANG is largely clathrin/dynamin independent and microtubule depolymerisation has a marginal effect. Perturbation of membrane ruffling and macropinocytosis significantly inhibited ANG uptake suggesting an uptake mechanism similar to RNase A. Our findings shed light on why mutations which do not overtly affect RNase activity but cause impaired localization are associated with neurodegenerative disease.

Concepts: Nervous system, Cell, Cell membrane, Cell biology, Neurology, Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, Neurodegenerative disorders, Glutamate transporter


Nuclear factor erythroid 2-related factor 2 (Nrf2), the transcriptional master regulator of the stress-induced antioxidant response, plays a key role in neuronal resistance to oxidative stress and glutamate-induced excitotoxicity. Nrf2-mediated neuroprotection is primarily conferred by astrocytes both in vitro and in vivo, but little is known about physiologic signals that regulate neuronal and astrocytic Nrf2 signaling. Here, we report that activity of the Nrf2 pathway in the brain is fine-tuned through a regulatory loop between neurons and astrocytes: elevated neuronal activity leads to secretion of glutamate and other soluble factors, which activate the astrocytic Nrf2 pathway through a signaling cascade that involves group I metabotropic glutamate receptors and intracellular Ca(2+). Therefore, regulation of endogenous antioxidant signaling is one of the functions of the neuron-astrocyte tripartite synapse; by matching the astrocyte neuroprotective capacity to the degree of activity in adjacent neuronal synapses, this regulatory mechanism may limit the physiologic costs associated with Nrf2 activation.

Concepts: Nervous system, Neuron, Brain, Synapse, Metabotropic glutamate receptor, Regulation, Metabotropic receptor, Glutamate transporter