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1.  Neuropathy-Induced Spinal GAP-43 Expression Is Not a Main Player in the Onset of Mechanical Pain Hypersensitivity 
Journal of Neurotrauma  2011;28(12):2463-2473.
Structural plasticity within the spinal nociceptive network may be fundamental to the chronic nature of neuropathic pain. In the present study, the spatiotemporal expression of growth-associated protein-43 (GAP-43), a protein which has been traditionally implicated in nerve fiber growth and sprouting, was investigated in relation to mechanical pain hypersensitivity. An L5 spinal nerve transection model was validated by the presence of mechanical pain hypersensitivity and an increase in the early neuronal activation marker cFos within the superficial spinal dorsal horn upon innocuous hindpaw stimulation. Spinal GAP-43 was found to be upregulated in the superficial L5 dorsal horn from 5 up to 10 days after injury. GAP-43 was co-localized with calcitonin-gene related peptide (CGRP), but not vesicular glutamate transporter-1 (VGLUT-1), IB4, or protein kinase-γ (PKC-γ), suggesting the regulation of GAP-43 in peptidergic nociceptive afferents. These GAP-43/CGRP fibers may be indicative of sprouting peptidergic fibers. Fiber sprouting largely depends on growth factors, which are typically associated with neuro-inflammatory processes. The putative role of neuropathy-induced GAP-43 expression in the development of mechanical pain hypersensitivity was investigated using the immune modulator propentofylline. Propentofylline treatment strongly attenuated the development of mechanical pain hypersensitivity and glial responses to nerve injury as measured by microglial and astroglial markers, but did not affect neuropathy-induced levels of spinal GAP-43 or GAP-43 regulation in CGRP fibers. We conclude that nerve injury induces structural plasticity in fibers expressing CGRP, which is regarded as a main player in central sensitization. Our data do not, however, support a major role of these structural changes in the onset of mechanical pain hypersensitivity.
PMCID: PMC3235345  PMID: 21671799
glial cell response to injury; neuroplasticity; peripheral nerve injury
2.  Tramadol and Propentofylline Coadministration Exerted Synergistic Effects on Rat Spinal Nerve Ligation-Induced Neuropathic Pain 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(8):e72943.
Neuropathic pain is an intractable clinical problem. Drug treatments such as tramadol have been reported to effectively decrease neuropathic pain by inhibiting the activity of nociceptive neurons. It has also been reported that modulating glial activation could also prevent or reverse neuropathic pain via the administration of a glial modulator or inhibitor, such as propentofylline. Thus far, there has been no clinical strategy incorporating both neuronal and glial participation for treating neuropathic pain. Therefore, the present research study was designed to assess whether coadministration of tramadol and propentofylline, as neuronal and glial activation inhibitors, respectively, would exert a synergistic effect on the reduction of rat spinal nerve ligation (SNL)-induced neuropathic pain. Rats underwent SNL surgery to induce neuropathic pain. Pain behavioral tests were conducted to ascertain the effect of drugs on SNL-induced mechanical allodynia with von-Frey hairs. Proinflammatory factor interleukin-1β (IL-1β) expression was also detected by Real-time RT-PCR. Intrathecal tramadol and propentofylline administered alone relieved SNL-induced mechanical allodynia in a dose-dependent manner. Tramadol and propentofylline coadministration exerted a more potent effect in a synergistic and dose dependent manner than the intrathecal administration of either drug alone. Real-time RT-PCR demonstrated IL-1β up-expression in the ipsilateral spinal dorsal horn after the lesion, which was significantly decreased by tramadol and propentofylline coadministration. Inhibiting proinflammatory factor IL-1β contributed to the synergistic effects of tramadol and propentofylline coadministration on rat peripheral nerve injury-induced neuropathic pain. Thus, our study provided a rationale for utilizing a novel strategy for treating neuropathic pain by blocking the proinflammatory factor related pathways in the central nervous system.
PMCID: PMC3756942  PMID: 24009718
3.  Plasticity in expression of the glutamate transporters GLT-1 and GLAST in spinal dorsal horn glial cells following partial sciatic nerve ligation 
Molecular Pain  2009;5:15.
Clearance of synaptically released glutamate, and hence termination of glutamatergic neurotransmission, is carried out by glutamate transporters, most especially glutamate transporter-1 (GLT-1) and the glutamate-aspartate transporter (GLAST) that are located in astrocytes. It is becoming increasingly well appreciated that changes in the function and expression of GLT-1 and GLAST occur under different physiological and pathological conditions. Here we investigated the plasticity in expression of GLT-1 and GLAST in the spinal dorsal horn using immunohistochemistry following partial sciatic nerve ligation (PSNL) in rats.
Animals were confirmed to develop hypersensitivity to mechanical stimulation by 7 days following PSNL. Baseline expression of GLT-1 and GLAST in naive animals was only observed in astrocytes and not in either microglia or neurons. Microglia and astrocytes showed evidence of reactivity to the nerve injury when assessed at 7 and 14 days following PSNL evidenced by increased expression of OX-42 and GFAP, respectively. In contrast, the total level of GLT-1 and GLAST protein decreased at both 7 and 14 days after PSNL. Importantly, the cellular location of GLT-1 and GLAST was also altered in response to nerve injury. Whereas activated astrocytes showed a marked decrease in expression of GLT-1 and GLAST, activated microglia showed de novo expression of GLT-1 and GLAST at 7 days after PSNL and this was maintained through day 14. Neurons showed no expression of GLT-1 or GLAST at any time point.
These results indicate that the expression of glutamate transporters in astrocytes and microglia are differentially regulated following nerve injury.
PMCID: PMC2676254  PMID: 19323820
4.  Effect of interleukin-1β on spinal cord nociceptive transmission of normal and monoarthritic rats after disruption of glial function 
Arthritis Research & Therapy  2009;11(4):R105.
Cytokines produced by spinal cord glia after peripheral injuries have a relevant role in the maintenance of pain states. Thus, while IL-1β is overexpressed in the spinal cords of animals submitted to experimental arthritis and other chronic pain models, intrathecal administration of IL-1β to healthy animals induces hyperalgesia and allodynia and enhances wind-up activity in dorsal horn neurons.
To investigate the functional contribution of glial cells in the spinal cord nociceptive transmission, the effect of intrathecally administered IL-1β was studied in both normal and adjuvant-induced arthritic rats with or without glial inhibition. Four weeks after induction of monoarthritis, rats were treated with the glial cell inhibitor propentofylline (10 μg i.t. daily during 10 days) and submitted to a C-fiber-mediated reflex paradigm evoked by single and repetitive (wind-up) electric stimulation.
Both the propentofylline treatment and the monoarthritic condition modified the stimulating current required for threshold activation of C reflex responses. Intrathecal IL-1β increased spinal cord wind-up activity in normal and monoarthritic rats without propentofylline pre-treatment, but resulted in decreased wind-up activity in normal and monoarthritic propentofylline-treated animals. Intrathecal saline did not produce any effect. Thus, glial inactivation reverted into inhibition the excitatory effect of IL-1β on spinal cord wind-up, irrespective of the normal or monoarthritic condition of rats.
The results suggest that the excitatory effect of nanomolar doses of IL-1β on spinal wind-up in healthy rats is produced by an unidentified glial mediator, while the inhibitory effects of IL-1β on wind-up activity in animals with inactivated glia resulted from a direct effect of the cytokine on dorsal horn neurons. The present study failed to demonstrate a differential sensitivity of normal and monoarthritic rats to IL-1β administration into the spinal cord and to disruption of β glial function, as both normal and monoarthritic animals changes wind-up activity in the same direction after propentofylline treatment, suggesting that after glial inhibition normal and monoarthritic animals behave similarly relative to the capability of dorsal horn neurons to generate wind-up activity when repeatedly stimulated by C-fibers.
PMCID: PMC2745785  PMID: 19586548
5.  Interleukin-1beta enhances endocytosis of glial glutamate transporters in the spinal dorsal horn through activating protein kinase C 
Glia  2014;62(7):1093-1109.
Excessive activation of glutamate receptors in spinal dorsal horn neurons is a key mechanism leading to abnormal neuronal activation in pathological pain conditions. Previous studies have shown that activation of glutamate receptors in the spinal dorsal horn is enhanced by impaired glial glutamate transporter functions and pro-inflammatory cytokines including interleukin-1 beta (IL-1β). In this study, we for the first time revealed that spinal glial glutamate transporter activities in the neuropathic animals are attenuated by endogenous IL-1β. Specifically, we demonstrated that nerve injury results in an increased expression of IL-1β and activation of PKC in the spinal dorsal horn as well as suppression of glial glutamate uptake activities. We provided evidence that the nerve-injury induced suppression of glial glutamate uptake is at least in part ascribed to endogenous IL-1β and activation of PKC in the spinal dorsal horn. IL-1β reduces glial glutamate transporter activities through enhancing the endocytosis of both GLT-1 and GLAST glial glutamate transporters. The IL-1β induced trafficking of glial glutamate transporters is through the calcium/PKC signaling pathway, and the dynamin-dependent endocytosis, which is dependent on the integrity of actin filaments. The signaling pathway regulating glial glutamate transporters revealed in this study provides novel targets to attenuate aberrant activation of glutamate receptors in the spinal dorsal horn, which could ultimately help the development of analgesics.
PMCID: PMC4083838  PMID: 24677092
6.  Propentofylline attenuates allodynia, glial activation and modulates GABAergic tone after spinal cord injury in the rat 
Pain  2008;138(2):410-422.
In this study, we evaluated whether propentofylline, a methylxanthine derivative, modulates spinal glial activation and GABAergic inhibitory tone by modulation of glutamic acid decarboxylase (GAD)65, the GABA synthase enzyme, in the spinal dorsal horn following spinal cord injury (SCI). Sprague–Dawley rats (225–250 g) were given a unilateral spinal transverse injury, from dorsal to ventral, at the T13 spinal segment. Unilateral spinal injured rats developed robust bilateral hindlimb mechanical allodynia and hyperexcitability of spinal wide dynamic range (WDR) neurons in the lumbar enlargement (L4–L5) compared to sham controls, which was attenuated by intrathecal (i.t.) administration of GABA, dose-dependently (0.01, 0.1, 0.5 μg). Western blotting and immunohistochemical data demonstrated that the expression level of GAD65 protein significantly decreased on both sides of the lumbar dorsal horn (L4/5) after SCI (p < 0.05). In addition, astrocytes and microglia showed soma hypertrophy as determined by increased soma area and increased GFAP and CD11b on both sides of the lumbar dorsal horn compared to sham controls, respectively (p < 0.05). Intrathecal treatment with propentofylline (PPF 10 mM) significantly attenuated the astrocytic and microglial soma hypertrophy and mechanical allodynia (p < 0.05). Additionally, the Western blotting and immunohistochemistry data demonstrated that i.t. treatment of PPF significantly prevented the decrease of GAD65 expression in both sides of the lumbar dorsal horn following SCI (p < 0.05). In conclusion, our present data demonstrate that propentofylline modulates glia activation and GABAergic inhibitory tone by modulation of GAD65 protein expression following spinal cord injury.
PMCID: PMC2676790  PMID: 18353556
Astrocytes; Central neuropathic pain; Glutamic acid decarboxylase; Microglia; Spinal cord injury
7.  Glial glutamate transporter and glutamine synthetase regulate GABAergic synaptic strength in the spinal dorsal horn 
Journal of Neurochemistry  2012;121(4):526-536.
Decreased GABAergic synaptic strength (“disinhibition”) in the spinal dorsal horn is a crucial mechanism contributing to the development and maintenance of pathological pain. However, mechanisms leading to disinhibition in the spinal dorsal horn remain elusive. We investigated the role of glial glutamate transporters (GLT-1 and GLAST) and glutamine synthetase in maintaining GABAergic synaptic activity in the spinal dorsal horn. Electrically evoked GABAergic inhibitory postsynaptic currents (eIPSCs), spontaneous IPSCs (sIPSCs) and miniature IPSCs (mIPSCs) were recorded in superficial spinal dorsal horn neurons of spinal slices from young adult rats. We used (2S, 3S)-3-[3-[4-(trifluoromethyl)benzoylamino]benzyloxy]aspartate (TFB-TBOA), to block both GLT-1 and GLAST and dihydrokainic acid (DHK) to block only GLT-1. We found that blockade of both GLAST and GLT-1 and blockade of only GLT-1 in the spinal dorsal horn decreased the amplitude of GABAergic eIPSCs, as well as both the amplitude and frequency of GABAergic sIPSCs or mIPSCs. Pharmacological inhibition of glial glutamine synthetase had similar effects on both GABAergic eIPSCs and sIPSCs. We provided evidence demonstrating that the reduction in GABAergic strength induced by the inhibition of glial glutamate transporters is due to insufficient GABA synthesis through the glutamate-glutamine cycle between astrocytes and neurons. Thus, our results indicate that deficient glial glutamate transporters and glutamine synthetase significantly attenuate GABAergic synaptic strength in the spinal dorsal horn, which may be a crucial synaptic mechanism underlying glial-neuronal interactions caused by dysfunctional astrocytes in pathological pain conditions.
PMCID: PMC3325337  PMID: 22339645
8.  Up-regulation of spinal glutamate transporters contributes to anti-hypersensitive effects of valproate in rats after peripheral nerve injury 
Neuroscience letters  2011;502(1):52-55.
Valproate produces analgesia in animals and humans, however, its mechanisms of action are yet unknown. The present study examined effects of repeated administration of valproate on behavioral hypersensitivity and expression of glutamate transporter-1 (GLT-1) and glutamate-aspartate transporter (GLAST) in the spinal dorsal horn in rats after L5–L6 spinal nerve ligation (SNL). SNL significantly reduced mechanical withdrawal threshold and expression of GLT-1 and GLAST in the spinal dorsal horn. Repeated oral administration of valproate reduced hypersensitivity, restored down-regulated expression of GLT-1 and GLAST in the spinal dorsal horn, and enhanced analgesia from the glutamate transporter activator riluzole. This analgesia from valproate was blocked by the selective GLT-1 blocker dihydrokainic acid (DHK). These data suggest that valproate restores down-regulated expression of glutamate transporters in the spinal cord to presumably reduce glutamate signaling and to reduce hypersensitivity after nerve injury, and that combination of valproate with riluzole produces enhanced analgesia which relies on the spinal glutamate transporters.
PMCID: PMC3159816  PMID: 21802494
valproate; neuropathic pain; glutamate transporter; dihydrokainic acid; riluzole
9.  Arundic acid attenuates retinal ganglion cell death by increasing glutamate/aspartate transporter expression in a model of normal tension glaucoma 
Cell Death & Disease  2015;6(3):e1693-.
Glaucoma is the second leading cause of blindness worldwide and is characterized by gradual visual impairment owing to progressive loss of retinal ganglion cells (RGCs) and their axons. Glutamate excitotoxicity has been implicated as a mechanism of RGC death in glaucoma. Consistent with this claim, we previously reported that glutamate/aspartate transporter (GLAST)-deficient mice show optic nerve degeneration that is similar to that observed in glaucoma. Therefore, drugs that upregulate GLAST may be useful for neuroprotection in glaucoma. Although many compounds are known to increase the expression of another glial glutamate transporter, EAAT2/GLT1, few compounds are shown to increase GLAST expression. Arundic acid is a glial modulating agent that ameliorates delayed ischemic brain damage by attenuating increases in extracellular glutamate. We hypothesized that arundic acid neuroprotection involves upregulation of GLAST. To test this hypothesis, we examined the effect of arundic acid on GLAST expression and glutamate uptake. We found that arundic acid induces GLAST expression in vitro and in vivo. In addition, arundic acid treatment prevented RGC death by upregulating GLAST in heterozygous (GLAST+/−) mice. Furthermore, arundic acid stimulates the human GLAST ortholog, EAAT1, expression in human neuroglioblastoma cells. Thus, discovering compounds that can enhance EAAT1 expression and activity may be a novel strategy for therapeutic treatment of glaucoma.
PMCID: PMC4385923  PMID: 25789968
10.  Inhibition of GAP-43 by propentofylline in a rat model of neuropathic pain 
Neural plasticity within the spinal nociceptive network may be fundamental to the chronic nature of neuropathic pain. The relation of growth-associated protein-43 (GAP-43), a protein involved in the nerve fiber growth and sprouting, to pain hypersensitivity has been investigated. Glial activation and inflammatory cytokines released by microglia and astrocytes are considered to be involved in the neural sprouting and plasticity. In the present study, the anti-nociception effect of propentofylline, a glial modulating agent, was investigated in a rat chronic constriction injury (CCI) model aiming to explore the role of GAP-43 expression. Our results demonstrated that propentofylline could attenuate the CCI-induced mechanical allodynia and thermal hyperalgesia and inhibit the astrocyte activation and production of IL-1β. GAP-43 expression was also down-regulated by intrathecal propentofylline. These findings suggest that astrocyte activation is involved in the regulation of GAP-43 expression and propentofylline might be used in the treatment of neuropathic pain.
PMCID: PMC3726966  PMID: 23923069
Astrocytes; growth-associated protein-43; interleukin 1β; neuropathic pain
11.  Evidence that spinal astrocytes but not microglia contribute to the pathogenesis of paclitaxel-induced painful neuropathy 
The Journal of Pain  2012;13(3):293-303.
Paclitaxel often induces persistent painful neuropathy as its most common treatment limiting side effect. Little is known concerning the underlying mechanisms. Given the prominent role of glial cells in many types of neuropathic pain, we investigated here the morphological and functional changes of spinal astrocytes and microglia in a rat model of paclitaxel-induced neuropathy. Immunohistochemistry, western blotting and real-time polymerase chain reaction (rt-PCR) were performed with samples from 109 rats up to 28 days after paclitaxel treatment. Paclitaxel (2mg/kg, i.p.) induced a rapid and persistent activation of spinal astrocytes assessed using glial fibrillary acidic protein (GFAP), but not apparent activation of microglia assessed using OX42, Iba-1 and phosphorylated p38. In the context of astocyte activation, there was a significant downregulation of glial glutamate transporters GLAST and GLT-1 in spinal dorsal horn. The activation of spinal astrocytes by paclitaxel was not associated with expression of pro-inflammatory cytokines including tumor necrosis factor-α (TNFα), interleukin-1β (IL-1β) or interleukin-6 (IL-6) in spinal dorsal horn. Systemic treatment with minocycline (50mg/kg, i.p.) prevented activation of astrocytes and downregulation of glial glutamate transporters in spinal dorsal horn induced by paclitaxel. These data suggest the involvement of spinal astrocytes but not microglia in the pathogenesis of paclitaxel-induced neuropathy.
PMCID: PMC3294066  PMID: 22285612
Paclitaxel; neuropathy; spinal cord; astrocyte; microglia; minocycline
12.  Valproate prevents dysregulation of spinal glutamate and reduces the development of hypersensitivity in rats after peripheral nerve injury 
The present study examined whether the histone deacetylase inhibitor valproate prevents down-regulation of glutamate transporters in the primary cultured astrocytes and in the spinal cord after L5-L6 spinal nerve ligation (SNL), and whether this action of valproate on spinal glutamate transporters prevents spinal glutamate dysregulation and development of hypersensitivity after SNL. In cultured astrocytes, valproate prevented down-regulation of glutamate transporter-1 (GLT-1) and glutamate-aspartate transporter (GLAST) in a concentration dependent manner. Repeated oral administration of valproate reduced the development of hypersensitivity and prevented the down-regulation of spinal GLT-1 and GLAST expression in rats after SNL, but did not affect mechanical nociception and expression of those transporters in normal rats. Valproate's effects on hypersensitivity and spinal GLT-1 expression in SNL rats were blocked by intrathecal administration of the selective GLT-1 blocker dihydrokainic acid or the GLT-1 selective small interfering RNA (siRNA). Extracellular glutamate concentration in the spinal cord, measured by microdialysis, was increased in animals with SNL or after GLT-1 selective siRNA treatment, and valproate prevented the SNL-induced glutamate increase. These results suggest that valproate reduces the development of chronic pain after nerve injury in part via preventing down-regulation of glutamate transporters, especially GLT-1, to maintain normal extracellular glutamate concentrations in the spinal cord.
PMCID: PMC3818435  PMID: 24021575
Valproate; Glutamate transporter; chronic pain; Astrocyte; Spinal cord
13.  Electroacupuncture Confers Antinociceptive Effects via Inhibition of Glutamate Transporter Downregulation in Complete Freund's Adjuvant-Injected Rats 
When we evaluated changes of glial fibrillary acidic protein (GFAP) and two glutamate transporter (GTs) by immunohistochemistry, expression of GFAP showed a significant increase in complete Freund's adjuvant (CFA)-injected rats; however, this expression was strongly inhibited by electroacupuncture (EA) stimulation. Robust downregulation of glutamate-aspartate transporter (GLAST) and glutamate transporter-1 (GLT-1) was observed in CFA-injected rats; however, EA stimulation resulted in recovery of this expression. Double-labeling staining showed co-localization of a large proportion of GLAST or GLT-1 with GFAP. Using Western blot, we confirmed protein expression of two GTs, but no differences in the mRNA content of these GTs were observed. Because EA treatment resulted in strong inhibition of CFA-induced proteasome activities, we examined the question of whether thermal sensitivities and GTs expression could be regulated by proteasome inhibitor MG132. CFA-injected rats co-treated with EA and MG132 showed a significantly longer thermal sensitivity, compared with CFA-injected rats with or without MG132. Both EA and MG132 blocked CFA-induced GLAST and GLT-1 downregulation within the spinal cord. These results provide evidence for involvement of GLAST and GLT-1 in response to activation of spinal astrocytes in an EA antinociceptive effect. Antinociceptive effect of EA may be induced via proteasome-mediated regulation of spinal GTs.
PMCID: PMC3432559  PMID: 22956975
14.  Minocycline prevents impaired glial glutamate uptake in the spinal sensory synapses of neuropathic rats 
Neuroscience  2010;170(3):901-912.
Activation of glutamate receptors and glial cells in the spinal dorsal horn are two fundamental processes involved in the pathogenesis of various pain conditions, including neuropathic pain induced by injury to the peripheral or central nervous systems. Numerous studies have demonstrated that minocycline treatment attenuates allodynic and hyperalgesic behaviors induced by tissue inflammation or nerve injury. However, the synaptic mechanisms by which minocycline prevents hyperalgesia are not fully understood. We recently reported that deficient glutamate uptake by glial glutamate transporters (GTs) is key for the enhanced activation of N-methyl-D-aspartate (NMDA) receptors in the spinal sensory synapses of rats receiving partial sciatic nerve ligation (pSNL). In this study, we investigated how minocycline affects activation of NMDA receptors in the spinal sensory synapses in rats with pSNL by whole cell recordings of NMDA currents in spinal laminea I and II neurons from spinal slices. The effects of minocycline treatments on the dorsal horn expression of glial GTs and astrocyte marker glial fibrillary acidic protein (GFAP) were analyzed by immunohistochemistry. We demonstrated that normalized activation of NMDA receptors in synapses activated by both weak and strong peripheral input in the spinal dorsal horn is temporally associated with attenuated mechanical allodynia in rats with pSNL receiving intraperitoneal injection of minocycline. Minocycline ameliorated both the downregulation of glial GT expression and the activation of astrocytes induced by pSNL in the spinal dorsal horn. We further revealed that preventing deficient glial glutamate uptake at the synapse is crucial for preserving the normalized activation of NMDA receptors in the spinal sensory synapses in pSNL rats treated with minocycline. Our studies suggest that glial GTs may be a potential target for the development of analgesics.
PMCID: PMC2939184  PMID: 20678556
glutamate transporters; glutamate receptors; spinal sensory processing; nociception; glia; pain
15.  Synaptically evoked glutamate transporter currents in Spinal Dorsal Horn Astrocytes 
Molecular Pain  2009;5:36.
Removing and sequestering synaptically released glutamate from the extracellular space is carried out by specific plasma membrane transporters that are primarily located in astrocytes. Glial glutamate transporter function can be monitored by recording the currents that are produced by co-transportation of Na+ ions with the uptake of glutamate. The goal of this study was to characterize glutamate transporter function in astrocytes of the spinal cord dorsal horn in real time by recording synaptically evoked glutamate transporter currents.
Whole-cell patch clamp recordings were obtained from astrocytes in the spinal substantia gelatinosa (SG) area in spinal slices of young adult rats. Glutamate transporter currents were evoked in these cells by electrical stimulation at the spinal dorsal root entry zone in the presence of bicuculline, strychnine, DNQX and D-AP5. Transporter currents were abolished when synaptic transmission was blocked by TTX or Cd2+. Pharmacological studies identified two subtypes of glutamate transporters in spinal astrocytes, GLAST and GLT-1. Glutamate transporter currents were graded with stimulus intensity, reaching peak responses at 4 to 5 times activation threshold, but were reduced following low-frequency (0.1 – 1 Hz) repetitive stimulation.
These results suggest that glutamate transporters of spinal astrocytes could be activated by synaptic activation, and recording glutamate transporter currents may provide a means of examining the real time physiological responses of glial cells in spinal sensory processing, sensitization, hyperalgesia and chronic pain.
PMCID: PMC2713213  PMID: 19570219
16.  Behavioural and morphological evidence for the involvement of glial cell activation in delta opioid receptor function: implications for the development of opioid tolerance 
Molecular Pain  2007;3:7.
Previous studies have demonstrated that prolonged morphine treatment in vivo induces the translocation of delta opioid receptors (δORs) from intracellular compartments to neuronal plasma membranes and this trafficking event is correlated with an increased functional competence of the receptor. The mechanism underlying this phenomenon is unknown; however chronic morphine treatment has been shown to involve the activation and hypertrophy of spinal glial cells. In the present study we have examined whether activated glia may be associated with the enhanced δOR-mediated antinociception observed following prolonged morphine treatment. Accordingly, animals were treated with morphine with or without concomitant administration of propentofylline, an inhibitor of glial activation that was previously shown to block the development of morphine antinociceptive tolerance. The morphine regimen previously demonstrated to initiate δOR trafficking induced the activation of both astrocytes and microglia in the dorsal spinal cord as indicated by a significant increase in cell volume and cell surface area. Consistent with previous data, morphine-treated rats displayed a significant augmentation in δOR-mediated antinociception. Concomitant spinal administration of propentofylline with morphine significantly attenuated the spinal immune response as well as the morphine-induced enhancement of δOR-mediated effects. These results complement previous reports that glial activation contributes to a state of opioid analgesic tolerance, and also suggest that neuro-glial communication is likely responsible in part for the altered functional competence in δOR-mediated effects following morphine treatment.
PMCID: PMC1828713  PMID: 17352824
17.  Lesion-Induced Alterations in Astrocyte Glutamate Transporter Expression and Function in the Hippocampus 
ISRN Neurology  2013;2013:893605.
Astrocytes express the sodium-dependent glutamate transporters GLAST and GLT-1, which are critical to maintain low extracellular glutamate concentrations. Here, we analyzed changes in their expression and function following a mechanical lesion in the CA1 area of organotypic hippocampal slices. 6-7 days after lesion, a glial scar had formed along the injury site, containing strongly activated astrocytes with increased GFAP and S100β immunoreactivity, enlarged somata, and reduced capability for uptake of SR101. Astrocytes in the scar's periphery were swollen as well, but showed only moderate upregulation of GFAP and S100β and efficiently took up SR101. In the scar, clusters of GLT-1 and GLAST immunoreactivity colocalized with GFAP-positive fibers. Apart from these, GLT-1 immunoreactivity declined with increasing distance from the scar, whereas GLAST expression appeared largely uniform. Sodium imaging in reactive astrocytes indicated that glutamate uptake was strongly reduced in the scar but maintained in the periphery. Our results thus show that moderately reactive astrocytes in the lesion periphery maintain overall glutamate transporter expression and function. Strongly reactive astrocytes in the scar, however, display clusters of GLAST and GLT-1 immunoreactivity together with reduced glutamate transport activity. This reduction might contribute to increased extracellular glutamate concentrations and promote excitotoxic cell damage at the lesion site.
PMCID: PMC3775433  PMID: 24078881
18.  GltI and Glast negatively regulate calcium-dependent proliferation of hippocampal neural progenitor cells and are persistently upregulated after injury 
The European journal of neuroscience  2011;34(11):1712-1723.
Using a transgenic mouse (mus musculus) that labels nestin-expressing progenitors with eGFP, we previously characterized the expression of GltI and Glast on early neural progenitors in vivo. To address their functional role in this cell population, we manipulated their expression in P7 neurospheres isolated from the dentate gyrus. We observed that knockdown of GltI or Glast was associated with decreased BrdU incorporation and neurosphere formation. Moreover, we determined that both glutamate transporters regulate progenitor proliferation in a calcium- and metabotropic glutamate receptor-dependent manner. To address the relevance of this in vivo, we utilized models of acquired brain injury, which are known to induce hippocampal neurogenesis. We observed that GltI and Glast are specifically upregulated in progenitors following brain injury and that this increased expression is maintained for many weeks. Additionally, we found that recurrently injured animals with increased expression of glutamate transporters within the progenitor population were resistant to subsequent injury-induced proliferation. These findings demonstrate that GltI and Glast negatively regulate calcium-dependent proliferation in vitro and their upregulation after injury is associated with decreased proliferation after brain trauma.
PMCID: PMC4390033  PMID: 22092549
neural stem cells; hippocampus; glutamate; neuroregeneration; mus musculus
19.  Increased Glutamate Receptor and Transporter Expression in the Cerebral Cortex and Striatum of Gcdh-/- Mice: Possible Implications for the Neuropathology of Glutaric Acidemia Type I 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(3):e90477.
We determined mRNA expression of the ionotropic glutamate receptors NMDA (NR1, NR2A and NR2B subunits), AMPA (GluR2 subunit) and kainate (GluR6 subunit), as well as of the glutamate transporters GLAST and GLT1 in cerebral cortex and striatum of wild type (WT) and glutaryl-CoA dehydrogenase deficient (Gchh-/-) mice aged 7, 30 and 60 days. The protein expression levels of some of these membrane proteins were also measured. Overexpression of NR2A and NR2B in striatum and of GluR2 and GluR6 in cerebral cortex was observed in 7-day-old Gcdh-/-. There was also an increase of mRNA expression of all NMDA subunits in cerebral cortex and of NR2A and NR2B in striatum of 30-day-old Gcdh-/- mice. At 60 days of life, all ionotropic receptors were overexpressed in cerebral cortex and striatum of Gcdh-/- mice. Higher expression of GLAST and GLT1 transporters was also verified in cerebral cortex and striatum of Gcdh-/- mice aged 30 and 60 days, whereas at 7 days of life GLAST was overexpressed only in striatum from this mutant mice. Furthermore, high lysine intake induced mRNA overexpression of NR2A, NR2B and GLAST transcripts in striatum, as well as of GluR2 and GluR6 in both striatum and cerebral cortex of Gcdh-/- mice. Finally, we found that the protein expression of NR2A, NR2B, GLT1 and GLAST were significantly greater in cerebral cortex of Gcdh-/- mice, whereas NR2B and GLT1 was similarly enhanced in striatum, implying that these transcripts were translated into their products. These results provide evidence that glutamate receptor and transporter expression is higher in Gcdh-/- mice and that these alterations may be involved in the pathophysiology of GA I and possibly explain, at least in part, the vulnerability of striatum and cerebral cortex to injury in patients affected by GA I.
PMCID: PMC3942441  PMID: 24594605
20.  Nuclear Factor-κB Contributes to Neuron-Dependent Induction of GLT-1 Expression in Astrocytes 
The GLT-1 (EAAT2) subtype of glutamate transporter ensures crisp excitatory signaling and limits excitotoxicity in the CNS. Astrocytic expression of GLT-1 is regulated during development, by neuronal activity, and in neurodegenerative diseases. Although neurons activate astrocytic expression of GLT-1, the mechanisms involved have not been identified. In the present study, astrocytes from transgenic mice that express enhanced green fluorescent protein (eGFP) under the control of a bacterial artificial chromosome (BAC) containing a very large region of DNA surrounding the GLT-1 gene (BAC GLT-1 eGFP mice) were used to assess the role of nuclear factor-κB (NF-κB) in neuron-dependent activation of the GLT-1 promoter. We provide evidence that neurons activate NF-κB signaling in astrocytes. Transduction of astrocytes from the BAC GLT-1 eGFP mice with dominant-negative inhibitors of NF-κB signaling completely blocked neuron-dependent activation of a NF-κB reporter construct and attenuated induction of eGFP. Exogenous expression of p65 and/or p50 NF-κB subunits induced expression of eGFP or GLT-1 and increased GLT-1-mediated transport activity. Using wild type and mutant GLT-1 promoter reporter constructs, we found that NF-κB sites at −583 or −251 relative to the transcription start site eliminated neuron-dependent reporter activation. Electrophoretic mobility shift and supershift assays reveal that p65 and p50 interact with these same sites ex vivo. Finally, chromatin immunoprecipitation (ChIP) showed that p65 and p50 interact with these sites in adult cortex, but not in kidney (a tissue that expresses no detectable GLT-1). Together, these studies strongly suggest that NF-κB contributes to neuron-dependent regulation of astrocytic GLT-1 transcription.
PMCID: PMC3138498  PMID: 21697367
glutamate transport; NF-κB; astrocytes; p65; p50; EAAT2; GLT-1; IκBα
21.  Mechanism of Raloxifene-induced Upregulation of Glutamate TransporterS in Rat Primary Astrocytes 
Glia  2014;62(8):1270-1283.
Raloxifene (RX), a selective estrogen receptor modulator (SERM), exerts neuroprotection in multiple clinical and experimental settings. Astrocytic glutamate transporters GLT-1 (EAAT2) and GLAST (EAAT1) are the main glutamate transporters in the central nervous system, taking up most of excess glutamate from the synaptic cleft to prevent excitotoxic neuronal death. Since drugs targeting astrocytic glutamate transporters to enhance their expression and function represent potential therapeutics for neurodegenerative disorders associated with excitotoxicity, we tested if RX modulates the expression and function of GLT-1 and GLAST in rat primary astrocytes. The results showed that RX significantly increased glutamate uptake and expression of GLT-1 mRNA and protein levels. RX enhanced GLT-1 expression by the activation of multiple signaling pathways including ERK, EGFR and CREB mediated by estrogen receptors (ERs) ER-α, ER-β and GPR30. At the transcriptional level, NF-κB played a critical role in RX-induced GLT-1 expression as RX increased NF-κB reporter activity and induced binding of NF-κB p65 and p50 to the GLT-1 promoter. RX attenuated the reduction of GLT-1 expression and glutamate uptake induced by manganese (Mn) whose chronic high levels of exposure cause manganism. RX also upregulated GLAST by increasing its promoter activity and protein levels via the NF-κB pathway and ERs. Our findings provide new insight into the mechanism of RX-induced enhancement of GLT-1 and GLAST expression, as well as the attenuation of Mn-reduced expression of these transporters. These findings will be highly valuable for developing therapeutics of neurodegenerative diseases associated with impaired astrocytic glutamate transporters.
PMCID: PMC4061260  PMID: 24782323
raloxifene; GLT-1; GLAST; manganese; estrogen receptors; NF-κB
22.  Gene transfer of GLT-1, a glial glutamate transporter, into the spinal cord by recombinant adenovirus attenuates inflammatory and neuropathic pain in rats 
Molecular Pain  2008;4:65.
The glial glutamate transporter GLT-1 is abundantly expressed in astrocytes and is crucial for glutamate removal from the synaptic cleft. Decreases in glutamate uptake activity and expression of spinal glutamate transporters are reported in animal models of pathological pain. However, the lack of available specific inhibitors and/or activators for GLT-1 makes it difficult to determine the roles of spinal GLT-1 in inflammatory and neuropathic pain. In this study, we examined the effect of gene transfer of GLT-1 into the spinal cord with recombinant adenoviruses on the inflammatory and neuropathic pain in rats.
Intraspinal infusion of adenoviral vectors expressing the GLT-1 gene increased GLT-1 expression in the spinal cord 2–21 days after the infusion. Transgene expression was primarily localized to astrocytes. The spinal GLT-1 gene transfer had no effect on acute mechanical and thermal nociceptive responses in naive rats, whereas it significantly reduced the inflammatory mechanical hyperalgesia induced by hindlimb intraplantar injection of carrageenan/kaolin. Spinal GLT-1 gene transfer 7 days before partial sciatic nerve ligation recovered the extent of the spinal GLT-1 expression in the membrane fraction that was decreased following the nerve ligation, and prevented the induction of tactile allodynia. However, the partial sciatic nerve ligation-induced allodynia was not reversed when the adenoviruses were infused 7 or 14 days after the nerve ligation.
These results suggest that overexpression of GLT-1 on astrocytes in the spinal cord by recombinant adenoviruses attenuates the induction, but not maintenance, of inflammatory and neuropathic pain, probably by preventing the induction of central sensitization, without affecting acute pain sensation. Upregulation or functional enhancement of spinal GLT-1 could be a novel strategy for the prevention of pathological pain.
PMCID: PMC2628654  PMID: 19108711
23.  Physiological properties of enkephalin-containing neurons in the spinal dorsal horn visualized by expression of green fluorescent protein in BAC transgenic mice 
BMC Neuroscience  2011;12:36.
Enkephalins are endogenous opiates that are assumed to modulate nociceptive information by mediating synaptic transmission in the central nervous system, including the spinal dorsal horn.
To develop a new tool for the identification of in vitro enkephalinergic neurons and to analyze enkephalin promoter activity, we generated transgenic mice for a bacterial artificial chromosome (BAC). Enkephalinergic neurons from these mice expressed enhanced green fluorescent protein (eGFP) under the control of the preproenkephalin (PPE) gene (penk1) promoter. eGFP-positive neurons were distributed throughout the gray matter of the spinal cord, and were primarily observed in laminae I-II and V-VII, in a pattern similar to the distribution pattern of enkephalin-containing neurons. Double immunostaining analysis using anti-enkephalin and anti-eGFP antibodies showed that all eGFP-expressing neurons contained enkephalin. Incubation in the presence of forskolin, an activator of adenylate cyclase, increased the number of eGFP-positive neurons. These results indicate that eGFP expression is controlled by the penk1 promoter, which contains cyclic AMP-responsive elements. Sections obtained from sciatic nerve-ligated mice exhibited increased eGFP-positive neurons on the ipsilateral (nerve-ligated side) compared with the contralateral (non-ligated side). These data indicate that PPE expression is affected by peripheral nerve injury. Additionally, single-neuron RT-PCR analysis showed that several eGFP positive-neurons in laminae I-II expressed glutamate decarboxylase 67 mRNA and that some expressed serotonin type 3 receptors.
These results suggest that eGFP-positive neurons in laminae I-II coexpress enkephalin and γ-aminobutyric acid (GABA), and are activated by forskolin and in conditions of nerve injury. The penk1-eGFP BAC transgenic mouse contributes to the further characterization of enkephalinergic neurons in the transmission and modulation of nociceptive information.
PMCID: PMC3115906  PMID: 21548966
24.  Spinal upregulation of glutamate transporter GLT-1 by ceftriaxone: therapeutic efficacy in a range of experimental nervous system disorders 
Neuroscience  2010;169(4):1888-1900.
Glutamate neurotransmission is highly regulated, largely by glutamate transporters. In the spinal cord, the glutamate transporter GLT-1 is primarily responsible for glutamate clearance. Downregulation of GLT-1 can occur in activated astrocytes, and is associated with increased extracellular glutamate and neuroexcitation. Among other conditions, astrocyte activation occurs following repeated opioids and in models of chronic pain. If GLT-1 downregulation occurs in these states, GLT-1 could be a pharmacological target for improving opioid efficacy and controlling chronic pain. The present studies explored whether daily intrathecal treatment of rats with ceftriaxone, a β-lactam antibiotic that upregulates GLT-1 expression, could prevent development of hyperalgesia and allodynia following repeated morphine, reverse pain arising from central or peripheral neuropathy, and reduce glial activation in these models. Ceftriaxone pre-treatment attenuated the development of hyperalgesia and allodynia in response to repeated morphine, and prevented associated astrocyte activation. In a model of multiple sclerosis (experimental autoimmune encephalomyelitis; EAE), ceftriaxone reversed tactile allodynia and halted the progression of motor weakness and paralysis. Similarly, ceftriaxone reversed tactile allodynia induced by chronic constriction nerve injury (CCI). EAE and CCI each significantly reduced the expression of membrane-bound, dimerized GLT-1 protein in lumbar spinal cord, an effect normalized by ceftriaxone. Lastly, ceftriaxone normalized CCI- and EAE-induced astrocyte activation in lumbar spinal cord. Together, these data indicate that increasing spinal GLT-1 expression attenuates opioid-induced paradoxical pain, alleviates neuropathic pain, and suppresses associated glial activation. GLT-1 therefore may be a therapeutic target that could improve available treatment options for patients with chronic pain.
PMCID: PMC2918694  PMID: 20547213
opioid; spinal cord; multiple sclerosis; astrocyte; allodynia; hyperalgesia
25.  Epigenetic Regulation of Neuron-Dependent Induction of Astroglial Synaptic Protein GLT1 
Glia  2010;58(3):277-286.
Astroglial glutamate transporter EAAT2/GLT1 prevents glutamate-induced excitotoxicity in the central nervous system. Expression of EAAT2/GLT1 is dynamically regulated by neurons. The pathogenesis of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) involves astroglial dysfunction, including dramatic loss of EAAT2/GLT1. DNA methylation of gene promoters represents one of the most important epigenetic mechanisms in regulating gene expression. The involvement of DNA methylation in the regulation of astroglial EAAT2/GLT1 expression in different conditions, especially in ALS has not been explored. In this study, we established a procedure to selectively isolate a pure astrocyte population in vitro and in vivo from BAC GLT1 eGFP mice using an eGFP-based fluorescence-activated cell sorting approach. Astrocytes isolated from this procedure are GFAP+ and GLT1+ and respond to neuronal stimulation, enabling direct methylation analysis of GLT1 promoter in these astrocytes. To investigate the role of DNA methylation in physiological and pathological EAAT2/GLT1 expression, methylation status of the EAAT2/GLT1 promoter was analyzed in astrocytes from in vitro and in vivo paradigms or postmortem ALS motor cortex by bisulfite sequencing method. DNA demethylation on selective CpG sites of the GLT1 promoter was highly correlated to increased GLT1 mRNA levels in astrocytes in response to neuronal stimulation; however, low level of methylation was found on CpG sites of EAAT2 promoter from postmortem motor cortex of human amyotrophic lateral sclerosis patients. In summary, hypermethylation on selective CpG sites of the GLT1 promoter is involved in repression of GLT1 promoter activation, but this regulation does not play a role in astroglial dysfunction of EAAT2 expression in patients with ALS.
PMCID: PMC2794958  PMID: 19672971
epigenetic; astrocyte; GLT1

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