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.
epigenetic; astrocyte; GLT1
Glutamate is the predominant excitatory amino acid neurotransmitter in the mammalian central nervous system (CNS). Glutamate transporter EAAT2 /GLT-1 is the physiologically dominant astroglial protein that inactivates synaptic glutamate. Previous studies have shown that EAAT2 dysfunction leads to excessive extracellular glutamate and may contribute to various neurological disorders including amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS). The recent discovery of the neuroprotective properties of ceftriaxone, a beta lactam antibiotic, suggested that increasing EAAT2 /GLT-1 gene expression might be beneficial in ALS and other neurological/psychiatric disorders by augmenting astrocytic glutamate uptake. Here we report our efforts to develop a new screening assay for identifying compounds that activate EAAT2 gene expression. We generated fetal derived-human immortalized astroglial cells that are stably expressing a firefly luciferase reporter under the control of the human EAAT2 promoter. When screening a library of 1040 FDA approved compounds and natural products, we identified harmine, a naturally occurring beta-carboline alkaloid, as one of the top hits for activating the EAAT2 promoter. We further tested harmine in our in vitro cell culture systems and confirmed its ability to increase EAAT2/GLT1 gene expression and functional glutamate uptake activity. We next tested its efficacy in both wild type animals and in an ALS animal model of disease and demonstrated that harmine effectively increased GLT-1 protein and glutamate transporter activity in vivo. Our studies provide potential novel neurotherapeutics by modulating the activity of glutamate transporters via gene activation.
harmine; GLT-1; EAAT2; glutamate transporter; astroglia; ALS
Glutamate is an essential excitatory neurotransmitter regulating brain functions. Excitatory amino acid transporter (EAAT)-2 is one of the major glutamate transporters expressed predominantly in astroglial cells and is responsible for 90% of total glutamate uptake. Glutamate transporters tightly regulate glutamate concentration in the synaptic cleft. Dysfunction of EAAT2 and accumulation of excessive extracellular glutamate has been implicated in the development of several neurodegenerative diseases including Alzheimer’s disease, Huntington’s disease, and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis. Analysis of the 2.5-kb human EAAT2 promoter showed that NF-κB is an important regulator of EAAT2 expression in astrocytes. Screening of approximately 1,040 FDA-approved compounds and nutritionals led to the discovery that many β-lactam antibiotics are transcriptional activators of EAAT2 resulting in increased EAAT2 protein levels. Treatment of animals with ceftriaxone (CEF), a β-lactam antibiotic, led to an increase of EAAT2 expression and glutamate transport activity in the brain. CEF has neuroprotective effects in both in vitro and in vivo models based on its ability to inhibit neuronal cell death by preventing glutamate excitotoxicity. CEF increases EAAT2 transcription in primary human fetal astrocytes (PHFA) through the NF-κB signaling pathway. The NF-κB binding site at −272 position was critical in CEF-mediated EAAT2 protein induction. These studies emphasize the importance of transcriptional regulation in controlling glutamate levels in the brain. They also emphasize the potential utility of the EAAT2 promoter for developing both low and high throughput screening assays to identify novel small molecule regulators of glutamate transport with potential to ameliorate pathological changes occurring during and causing neurodegeneration.
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.
glutamate transport; NF-κB; astrocytes; p65; p50; EAAT2; GLT-1; IκBα
GLT1 is the major glutamate transporter of the brain and has been thought to be expressed exclusively in astrocytes. Although excitatory axon terminals take up glutamate, the transporter responsible has not been identified. GLT1 is expressed in at least two forms varying in the C termini, GLT1a and GLT1b. GLT1 mRNA has been demonstrated in neurons, without associated protein. Recently, evidence has been presented, using specific C terminus-directed antibodies, that GLT1b protein is expressed in neurons in vivo. These data suggested that the GLT1 mRNA detected in neurons encodes GLT1b and also that GLT1b might be the elusive presynaptic transporter. To test these hypotheses, we used variant-specific probes directed to the 3′-untranslated regions for GLT1a and GLT1b to perform in situ hybridization in the hippocampus. Contrary to expectation, GLT1a mRNA was the more abundant form. To investigate further the expression of GLT1 in neurons in the hippocampus, antibodies raised against the C terminus of GLT1a and against the N terminus of GLT1, found to be specific by testing in GLT1 knock-out mice, were used for light microscopic and EM-ICC. GLT1a protein was detected in neurons, in 14–29% of axons in the hippocampus, depending on the region. Many of the labeled axons formed axo-spinous, asymmetric, and, thus, excitatory synapses. Labeling also occurred in some spines and dendrites. The antibody against the N terminus of GLT1 also produced labeling of neuronal processes. Thus, the originally cloned form of GLT1, GLT1a, is expressed as protein in neurons in the mature hippocampus and may contribute significantly to glutamate uptake into excitatory terminals.
uptake; trafficking; alternative splicing; excitotoxicity; PDZ domain; synapse
The excitatory amino acid transporters (EAATs), or sodium-dependent glutamate transporters, provide the primary mechanism for glutamate removal from the synaptic cleft. EAAT distribution has been determined in the rat brain, but it is only partially characterized in the spinal cord.
The regional anatomic distribution of EAATs in spinal cord was assessed by radioligand autoradiography throughout cervical, thoracic, and lumbar cord levels in female Sprague-Dawley rats. EAAT subtype regional distribution was evaluated by inclusion of pharmacologic transport inhibitors in the autoradiography assays and by immunohistochemistry using subtype-specific polyclonal antibodies to rat GLT1 (EAAT2), GLAST (EAAT1), and EAAC1 (EAAT3) rat transporter subtypes.
[3H]-D-Aspartate binding was distributed throughout gray matter at the 3 spinal cord levels, with negligible binding in white matter. Inclusion of pharmacologic transport inhibitors indicates that the EAAT2/GLT1 subtype represents 21% to 40% of binding. Both EAAT1/GLAST and EAAT3/EAAC1 contributed the remainder of binding. Immunoreactivity to subtype-specific antibodies varied, depending on cord level, and was present in both gray and white matter. All 3 subtypes displayed prominent immunoreactivity in the dorsal horn. EAAT3/EAAC1 and to a lesser extent EAAT1/GLAST immunoreactivity also occurred in a punctate pattern in the ventral horn.
The results indicate heterogeneity of EAAT distribution among spinal cord levels and regions. The presence of these transporters throughout rat spinal cord suggests the importance of their contributions to spinal cord function.
Spinal cord; Glutamate plasma membrane proteins; Autoradiography; Immunohistochemistry; Amino acid transporters, Excitatory
Drugs which upregulate astrocyte glutamate transport may be useful neuroprotective compounds by preventing excitotoxicity. We set up a new system to identify potential neuroprotective drugs which act through GLT-1. Primary mouse striatal astrocytes grown in the presence of the growth-factor supplement G5 express high levels of the functional glutamate transporter, GLT-1 (also known as EAAT2) as assessed by Western blotting and 3H-glutamate uptake assay, and levels decline following growth factor withdrawal. The GLT-1 transcriptional enhancer dexamethasone (0.1 or 1 μM) was able to prevent loss of GLT-1 levels and activity following growth factor withdrawal. In contrast, ceftriaxone, a compound previously reported to enhance GLT-1 expression, failed to regulate GLT-1 in this system. The neuroprotective compound riluzole (100 μM) upregulated GLT-1 levels and activity, through a mechanism that was not dependent on blockade of voltage-sensitive ion channels, since zonasimide (1 mM) did not regulate GLT-1. Finally, CDP-choline (10 μM – 1 mM), a compound which promotes association of GLT-1/EAAT2 with lipid rafts was unable to prevent GLT-1 loss under these conditions. This observation extends the known pharmacological actions of riluzole, and suggests that this compound may exert its neuroprotective effects through an astrocyte-dependent mechanism.
EAAT2; neuroprotection; citicholine; Parkinson’s Disease; glutamate uptake; glutamate transporters
Astrocytes remove glutamate from the synaptic cleft via specific transporters, and impaired glutamate reuptake may promote excitotoxic neuronal injury. In a model of viral encephalomyelitis caused by neuroadapted Sindbis virus (NSV), mice develop acute paralysis and spinal motor neuron degeneration inhibited by the AMPA receptor antagonist, NBQX. To investigate disrupted glutamate homeostasis in the spinal cord, expression of the main astroglial glutamate transporter, GLT-1, was examined. GLT-1 levels declined in the spinal cord during acute infection while GFAP expression was preserved. There was simultaneous production of inflammatory cytokines at this site, and susceptible animals treated with drugs that blocked IL-1β release also limited paralysis and prevented the loss of GLT-1 expression. Conversely, infection of resistant mice that develop mild paralysis following NSV challenge showed higher baseline GLT-1 levels as well as lower production of IL-1β and relatively preserved GLT-1 expression in the spinal cord compared to susceptible hosts. Finally, spinal cord GLT-1 expression was largely maintained following infection of IL-1β-deficient animals. Together, these data show that IL-1β inhibits astrocyte glutamate transport in the spinal cord during viral encephalomyelitis. They provide one of the strongest in vivo links between innate immune responses and the development of excitotoxicity demonstrated to date.
glutamate transporters; interleukin-1β; viral encephalomyelitis; motor neuron; excitotoxicity
Efficient excitatory transmission depends on a family of transporters that utilize the Na+-electrochemical gradient to maintain low synaptic concentrations of glutamate. These transporters consume substantial energy in the spatially restricted space of fine astrocytic processes. GLT-1 (EAAT2) mediates the bulk of this activity in forebrain. To date, relatively few proteins have been identified that associate with GLT-1. In the present study, GLT-1 immunoaffinity isolates were prepared from rat cortex using three strategies and analyzed by LC coupled tandem mass spectrometry. In addition to known interacting proteins, the analysis identified glycolytic enzymes and outer mitochondrial proteins. Using double label immunofluorescence, GLT-1 was shown to co-localize with the mitochondrial matrix protein, ubiquinol-cytochrome c reductase core protein II (UQCRC2) or the inner mitochondrial membrane protein, ADP/ATP translocase (ANT), in rat cortex. In biolistically transduced hippocampal slices, fluorescently tagged GLT-1 puncta overlapped with fluorescently tagged mitochondria along fine astrocytic processes. In a Monte Carlo-type computer simulation, this overlap was significantly more frequent than would occur by chance. Furthermore, fluorescently tagged hexokinase-1 overlapped with mitochondria or GLT-1, strongly suggesting that GLT-1, mitochondria, and the first step in glycolysis are co-compartmentalized in astrocytic processes. Acute inhibition of glycolysis or oxidative phosphorylation had no effect on glutamate uptake in hippocampal slices, but simultaneous inhibition of both processes significantly reduced transport. Together with previous results, these studies show that GLT-1 co-compartmentalizes with Na+/K+ ATPase, glycolytic enzymes, and mitochondria, providing a mechanism to spatially match energy and buffering capacity to the demands imposed by transport.
glutamate transport; GLT-1; mitochondria; glycolysis
Tight coupling between GABA synthesis and vesicle filling suggests that the presynaptic supply of precursor glutamate could dynamically regulate inhibitory synapses. Although the neuronal glutamate transporter Excitatory Amino Acid Transporter 3 (EAAT3) has been proposed to mediate such a metabolic role, highly efficient astrocytic uptake of synaptically released glutamate normally maintains low extracellular glutamate levels. We examined whether axodendritic inhibitory synapses in stratum radiatum of hippocampal area CA1, which are closely positioned among excitatory glutamatergic synapses, are regulated by synaptic glutamate release via presynaptic uptake. Under conditions of spatially and temporally coordinated release of glutamate and GABA within pyramidal cell dendrites, blocking glial glutamate uptake enhanced quantal release of GABA in a transporter-dependent manner. These physiological findings correlated with immunohistochemical studies revealing expression of EAAT3 by interneurons and uptake of D-asparate into putative axodendritic inhibitory terminals only when glial uptake was blocked. These results indicate that spillover of glutamate between adjacent excitatory and inhibitory synapses can occur under conditions when glial uptake incompletely clears synaptically released glutamate. Our anatomical studies also suggest that perisomatic inhibitory synapses, unlike synapses within dendritic layers of hippocampus, are not capable of glutamate uptake and therefore transporter-mediated dynamic regulation of inhibition is a unique feature of axodendritic synapses that may play a role in maintaining a homeostatic balance of inhibition and excitation.
Glutamate is a key neurotransmitter and its levels in the synaptic cleft are tightly regulated by reuptake mechanisms that primarily involve transporters in astrocytes. This requires that the glutamate transporters be spatially constrained to effect maximum glutamate transport. GLAST (EAAT1) is the predominant astroglial transporter and contains a class I PDZ-binding consensus (ETKM) in its C-terminus. The epithelial Na+/H+ exchanger regulatory factors NHERF1 and NHERF2 are PDZ proteins that contain two tandem PDZ domains and a C-terminal domain that binds members of the ERM (ezrin–radixin–moesin) family of membrane-cytoskeletal adaptors. NHERF proteins have been extensively characterized in renal epithelia and their expression in brain has recently been reported; however, their function in the brain remains unknown. The aims of the current study were to (1) determine the distribution of NHERF1/2 in the rodent brain and (2) investigate whether GLAST was a physiological ligand for NHERF1/2. Immunohistochemistry revealed that NHERF1 expression was widespread in rat brain (abundant in cerebellum, cerebral cortex, hippocampus, and thalamus) and primarily restricted to astrocytes whereas NHERF2 expression was primarily restricted to endothelial cells of blood vessels and capillaries. Importantly, NHERF1 distribution closely matched that of GLAST and confocal imaging demonstrated co-localization of the two proteins. Co-immunoprecipitation demonstrated that GLAST, NHERF1, and ezrin associate in vivo. In vitro binding assays showed that GLAST bound directly to the PDZ1 domain of NHERF1 via the C-terminal ETKM motif of GLAST. These findings implicate the GLAST–NHERF1 complex in the regulation of glutamate homeostasis in astrocytes.
NHERF1; NHERF2; GLAST; astrocytes; glutamate transport
In the central nervous system, excitatory amino acid transporters (EAATs) localized to neurons and glia terminate the actions of synaptically released glutamate. Whereas glial transporters are primarily responsible for maintaining low ambient levels of extracellular glutamate, neuronal transporters have additional roles in shaping excitatory synaptic transmission. Here we test the hypothesis that the expression level of the Purkinje cell (PC)-specific transporter, EAAT4, near parallel fiber (PF) release sites controls the extrasynaptic glutamate concentration transient following synaptic stimulation. Expression of EAAT4 follows a parasagittal banding pattern that allows us to compare regions of high and low EAAT4-expressing PCs. Using EAAT4 promoter driven eGFP reporter mice together with pharmacology and genetic deletion, we show that the level of neuronal transporter expression influences extrasynaptic transmission from PFs to adjacent Bergmann glia (BG). Surprisingly, a twofold difference in functional EAAT4 levels is sufficient to alter signaling to BG although EAAT4 may only be responsible for removing a fraction of released glutamate. These results demonstrate that physiological regulation of neuronal transporter expression can alter extrasynaptic neuro-glial signaling.
synaptic transmission; Purkinje cell; parallel fiber; EAAT4
Glutamate cycling is critically important for neurotransmission, and may be altered in schizophrenia. The excitatory amino acid transporters (EAATs) facilitate the reuptake of glutamate from the synaptic cleft and have a key role in glutamate cycling. We hypothesized that expression of the EAATs and the EAAT regulating proteins ARHGEF11, JWA, G protein suppressor pathway 1 (GPS1), and KIAA0302 are altered in the brain in schizophrenia. To test this, we measured expression of EAAT1, EAAT2, EAAT3, and EAAT interacting proteins in postmortem tissue from the dorsolateral prefrontal and anterior cingulate cortex of patients with schizophrenia and a comparison group using in situ hybridization and Western blot analysis. We found increased EAAT1 transcripts and decreased protein expression, increased EAAT3 transcripts and protein, and elevated protein expression of both GPS1 and KIAA0302 protein. We did not find any changes in expression of EAAT2. These data indicate that proteins involved in glutamate reuptake and cycling are altered in the cortex in schizophrenia, and may provide potential targets for future treatment strategies.
GPS1; anterior cingulate cortex; dorsolateral prefrontal cortex; postmortem; Western blot; in situ hybridization
Glutamate transporters, also referred to as excitatory amino acid
transporters (EAATs), are membrane proteins that regulate glutamatergic signal
transmission by clearing excess glutamate after its release at synapses. A
structure-based understanding of their molecular mechanisms of function has
been elusive until the recent determination of the x-ray structure of an
archaeal transporter, GltPh. GltPh exists as a trimer,
with each subunit containing a core region that mediates substrate
translocation. In the present study a series of molecular dynamics simulations
have been conducted and analyzed in light of new experimental data on
substrate binding properties of EAATs. The simulations provide for the first
time a full atomic description of the time-resolved events that drive the
recognition and binding of substrate. The core region of each subunit exhibits
an intrinsic tendency to open the helical hairpin HP2 loop, the extracellular
gate, within tens of nanoseconds exposing conserved polar residues that serve
as attractors for substrate binding. The NMDGT motif on the partially unwound
part of the transmembrane helix TM7 and the residues Asp-390 and Asp-394 on
TM8 are also distinguished by their important role in substrate binding and
close interaction with mediating water molecules and/or sodium ions. The
simulations reveal a Na+ binding site comprised in part of Leu-303
on TM7 and Asp-405 on TM8 and support a role for sodium ions in stabilizing
substrate-bound conformers. The functional importance of Leu-303 or its
counterpart Leu-391 in human EAAT1 (hEAAT1) is confirmed by site-directed
mutagenesis and Na+ dependence assays conducted with hEAAT1 mutants
L391C and L391A.
Vascular dementia (VaD) accounts for approximately 15%–20% of all dementias, but the relationship of progressive cognitive impairment to neurochemical changes is poorly understood. We have therefore investigated glutamatergic synaptic markers in VaD.
We used homogenates prepared from gray matter from 2 neocortical regions (Brodmann area [BA] 9 and BA 20) and Western blotting to determine the concentrations of key components of the glutamatergic neurotransmitter system, vesicular glutamate transporter 1 (VGLUT1) and excitatory amino acid transporter EAAT2 (GLT-1), and the ubiquitous synaptic protein, synaptophysin, in 73 individuals—48 patients with cerebrovascular disease with and without dementia, 10 patients with AD, and 15 controls—in a case-control design.
VGLUT1 concentrations in BA 20 and BA 9 were correlated with CAMCOG total (Rs 0.525, p = 0.018, n = 20; Rs 0.560, p = 0.002, n = 27) and CAMCOG memory scores (Rs 0.616, p = 0.004, n = 20; Rs 0.675, p = 0.000, n = 27). VGLUT1 concentration in BA 9 differed between the different dementia groups and the stroke no dementia group (1-way analysis of variance F = 6.69, p = 0.001 and Bonferroni p < 0.01 in each case), with subjects with stroke who did not develop dementia exhibiting the highest mean value for VGLUT1.
These data suggest that loss of glutamatergic synapses is a feature of VaD and Alzheimer disease but the preservation of synapses, in particular glutamatergic synapses, in the frontal cortex against the temporal cortex plays a role in sustaining cognition and protecting against dementia following a stroke.
= Alzheimer disease;
= analysis of variance;
= Brodmann area;
= cerebral amyloid angiopathy;
= Cambridge Assessment of Mental Health for the Elderly, Section B;
= Consortium to Establish a Registry for Alzheimer's Disease;
= Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 4th edition;
= glial fibrillary acidic protein;
= hematoxylin & eosin;
= Luxol fast blue;
= stroke no dementia;
= vascular dementia;
= vesicular glutamate transporter 1.
Excitatory amino acid transporters (EAAT) uptake extracellular glutamate, the major excitatory neurotransmitter in the brain. EAAT type 3 (EAAT3), the main neuronal EAAT, is expressed widely in the central nervous system. We have shown that the volatile anesthetic isoflurane increases EAAT3 activity and trafficking to the plasma membrane. Thus, we hypothesize that EAAT3 mediates isoflurane-induced anesthesia. To test this hypothesis, the potency of isoflurane to induce immobility and hypnosis, two major components of general anesthesia, was compared in the CD-1 wild-type mice and EAAT knockout mice that had a CD-1 strain gene background. Hypnosis was assessed by loss of righting reflex in this study. The expression of EAAT1 and EAAT2, two widely expressed EAATs in the central nervous system, in the cerebral cortex and spinal cord was not different between the EAAT3 knockout mice and wild-type mice. The concentration required for isoflurane to cause immobility to painful stimuli, a response involving primarily reflex loops in the spinal cord, was not changed by EAAT3 knockout. However, the EAAT3 knockout mice were more sensitive to isoflurane-induced hypnotic effects, which may be mediated by hypothalamic sleep neural circuits. Interestingly, the EAAT3 knockout mice did not have an altered sensitivity to the hypnotic effects caused by ketamine, an intravenous anesthetic that is a glutamate receptor antagonist and does not affect EAAT3 activity. These results suggest that EAAT3 modulates the sensitivity of neural circuits to isoflurane. These results, along with our previous findings that isoflurane increases EAAT3 activity, indicate that EAAT3 may regulate isoflurane-induced behavioral changes, including anesthesia.
anesthesia; glutamate transporter; gene expression; hypnosis; isoflurane
Excitotoxicity has been implicated as the mechanism of neuronal damage resulting from acute insults such as stroke, epilepsy, and trauma, as well as during the progression of adult-onset neurodegenerative disorders such as Alzheimer’s disease and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS). Excitotoxicity is defined as excessive exposure to the neurotransmitter glutamate or overstimulation of its membrane receptors, leading to neuronal injury or death. One potential approach to protect against excitotoxic neuronal damage is enhanced glutamate reuptake. The glial glutamate transporter EAAT2 is the quantitatively dominant glutamate transporter and plays a major role in clearance of glutamate. Expression of EAAT2 protein is highly regulated at the translational level. In an effort to identify compounds that can induce translation of EAAT2 transcripts, a cell-based enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay was developed using a primary astrocyte line stably transfected with a vector designed to identify modulators of EAAT2 translation. This assay was optimized for high-throughput screening, and a library of approximately 140,000 compounds was tested. In the initial screen, 293 compounds were identified as hits. These 293 hits were retested at 3 concentrations, and a total of 61 compounds showed a dose-dependent increase in EAAT2 protein levels. Selected compounds were tested in full 12-point dose-response experiments in the screening assay to assess potency as well as confirmed by Western blot, immunohistochemistry, and glutamate uptake assays to evaluate the localization and function of the elevated EAAT2 protein. These hits provide excellent starting points for developing therapeutic agents to prevent excitotoxicity.
excitotoxicity; glutamate transporter; EAAT2; high-throughput screen; neurodegeneration
The excitatory amino acid transporters (EAATs) are a family of molecules that are essential for regulation of synaptic glutamate levels. The EAATs may also be regulated by N-glycosylation, a posttranslational modification that is critical for many cellular functions including localization in the plasma membrane. We hypothesized that glycosylation of the EAATs is abnormal in schizophrenia. To test this hypothesis, we treated postmortem tissue from the dorsolateral prefrontal and anterior cingulate cortices of patients with schizophrenia and comparison subjects with deglycosylating enzymes. We then measured the resulting shifts in molecular weight of the EAATs using Western blot analysis to determine the mass of glycans cleaved from the transporter. We found evidence for less glycosylation of both EAAT1 and EAAT2 in schizophrenia. We did not detect N-linked glycosylation of EAAT3 in either schizophrenia or the comparison subjects in these regions. Our data suggest an abnormality of posttranslational modification of glutamate transporters in schizophrenia that suggests a decreased capacity for glutamate reuptake.
GLAST; GLT-1; EAAC1; deglycosylation; anterior cingulate cortex; dorsolateral prefrontal cortex
GLT-1 is a glial glutamate transporter which maintains low synaptic concentrations of the excitatory neurotransmitter enabling efficient synaptic transmission. Based on the crystal structure of the bacterial homologue GltPh, it has been proposed that the reentrant loop HP2, which connects transmembrane domains (TM) 7 and 8, moves to open and close access to the binding pocket from the extracellular medium. However the conformation change between TM5 and TM8 during the transport cycle is not clear yet. We used paired cysteine mutagenesis in conjunction with treatments with Copper(II)(1,10-Phenanthroline)3 (CuPh), to verify the predicted proximity of residues located at these structural elements of GLT-1.
To assess the proximity of transmembrane domain (TM) 5 relative to TM8 during transport by the glial glutamate transporter GLT-1/EAAT2, cysteine pairs were introduced at the extracellular ends of these structural elements. A complete inhibition of transport by Copper(II)(1,10-Phenanthroline)3 is observed in the double mutants I295C/I463C and G297C/I463C, but not in the corresponding single mutants. Glutamate and potassium, both expected to increase the proportion of inward-facing transporters, significantly protected against the inhibition of transport activity of I295C/I463C and G297C/I463C by CuPh. Transport by the double mutants I295C/I463C and G297C/I463C also was inhibited by Cd2+.
Our results suggest that TM5 (Ile-295, Gly-297) is in close proximity to TM8 (Ile-463) in the mammalian transporter, and that the spatial relationship between these domains is altered during the transport cycle.
Well-developed cellular mechanisms exist to preserve glutamate homeostasis and regulate extrasynaptic glutamate levels. Accumulating evidence indicates that disruptions in glutamate homeostasis are associated with addictive disorders. The disruptions in glutamate concentrations observed following prolonged exposure to drugs of abuse are associated with changes in the function and activity of several key components within the homeostatic control mechanism, including the cystine/glutamate exchanger xc− and the glial glutamate transporter EAAT2/GLT-1. Changes in the balance between synaptic and extrasynaptic glutamate levels in turn influence signaling through pre- and postsynaptic glutamate receptors, and thus affect synaptic plasticity and circuit-level activity. In this review we describe the evidence for impaired glutamate homestasis as a critical mediator of long-term drug-seeking behaviors, how chronic neuroadaptations in xc− and GLT-1 mediate a disruption in glutamate homeostasis, and how targeting these components restores glutamate levels and inhibits drug-seeking behaviors.
Glutamate homeostasis; drug seeking; cystine/glutamate exchanger; glial glutamate transporter
OBJECTIVES—To investigate if sequence alterations
of the excitatory amino acid transporter gene EAAT2 (GLT-1) may be a
contributory factor to the pathogenesis of motor system degeneration.
EAAT2 serves as a candidate gene as its reduced expression was reported
in patients with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS). Furthermore, neurolathyrism, a motor neuron disease clinically related to hereditary spastic paraplegia (HSP), has been associated with an exogenous excitotoxin.
METHODS—Sequence alterations were screened for in
the coding region of EAAT2 in 55 patients with ALS and one family with
autosomal dominant HSP (AD-HSP).
RESULTS—In ALS, no sequence alteration in the
EAAT2 gene have been found. Interestingly, a heterozygous A79G mutation
of the EAAT2 gene was detected in two of seven affected patients with
AD-HSP in the same kindred. The absence of cosegregation with the
familial disease showed that the detected variant was not the cause of disease. The A79G sequence variant was not found in 55 patients with
ALS or in 50 non-neurological controls.
CONCLUSION—The allelic variant of the EAAT2 gene
in conjunction with the primary gene defect may be a modifying factor
for the highly variable AD-HSP phenotype.
Glutamate transporters are integral membrane proteins that catalyze a thermodynamically uphill uptake of the neurotransmitter glutamate from the synaptic cleft into the cytoplasm of glial and neuronal cells by harnessing the energy of pre-existing electrochemical gradients of ions. The linchpin of the reaction is the conformational transition of the transporters between outward and inward facing states, in which the substrate binding sites are accessible from the extracellular space and the cytoplasm respectively. Here we describe a crystal structure of a double cysteine mutant of a bacterial homologue of glutamate transporters, GltPh, which is trapped in the inward facing state by cysteine cross-linking. Together with the previously determined crystal structure of GltPh in the outward facing state, the structure of the cross-linked mutant allows us to propose a molecular mechanism, by which GltPh and, by analogy, mammalian glutamate transporters, mediate sodium-coupled substrate uptake.
Glutamate transporters maintain a low ambient level of glutamate in the CNS and shape the activation of glutamate receptors at synapses. Nevertheless, the mechanisms that regulate the trafficking and localization of transporters near sites of glutamate release are poorly understood. Here we examined the subcellular distribution and dynamic remodeling of the predominant glutamate transporter GLT-1 (EAAT2) in developing hippocampal astrocytes. Immunolabeling revealed that endogenous GLT-1 is concentrated into discrete clusters along branches of developing astrocytes that were apposed preferentially to synapsin-1 positive synapses. GFP-GLT-1 fusion proteins expressed in astrocytes also formed distinct clusters that lined the edges of astrocyte processes, as well as the tips of filopodia and spine-like structures. Time-lapse 3D confocal imaging in tissue slices revealed that GFP-GLT-1 clusters were dynamically remodeled on a timescale of minutes. Some transporter clusters moved within developing astrocyte branches as filopodia extended and retracted, while others maintained stable positions at the tips of spine-like structures. Blockade of neuronal activity with tetrodotoxin reduced both the density and perisynaptic localization of GLT-1 clusters. Conversely, enhancement of neuronal activity increased the size of GLT-1 clusters and their proximity to synapses. Together, these findings indicate that neuronal activity influences both the organization of glutamate transporters in developing astrocyte membranes and their position relative to synapses.
astrocyte; GLT-1; EAAT2; biolistics; time-lapse; activity
Excitatory amino acid transporters (EAATs) are membrane
responsible for reuptake of glutamate from the synaptic cleft to terminate
neurotransmission and help prevent neurotoxically high, extracellular
glutamate concentrations. Important structural information about these
proteins emerged from crystal structures of GltPh, a bacterial homologue
of EAATs, in conformations facing outward and inward. These remarkably
different conformations are considered to be end points of the substrate
translocation path (STP), suggesting that the transport mechanism
involves major conformational rearrangements that remain uncharted.
To investigate possible steps in the structural transitions of the
STP between the two end-point conformations, we applied a combination
of computational modeling methods (motion planning, molecular dynamics
simulations, and mixed elastic network models). We found that the
conformational changes in the transition involve mainly the repositioning
the “transport domain” and the “trimerization
domain” identified previously in the crystal structures. The
two domains move in opposite directions along the membrane normal,
and the transport domain also tilts by ∼17° with respect
to this axis. Moreover, the TM3–4 loop undergoes a flexible,
“restraining bar”-like conformational change with respect
to the transport domain. As a consequence of these conformational
rearrangements along the transition path we calculated a significant
decrease of nearly 20% in the area of the transport-to-trimerization
domain interface (TTDI). Water penetrates parts of the TTDI in the
modeled intermediates but very much less in the end-point conformations.
We show that these characteristics of the modeled intermediate states
agree with experimental results from residue-accessibility studies
in individual monomers and identify specific residues that can be
used to test the proposed STP. Moreover, MD simulations of complete
GltPh trimers constructed from initially identical monomer intermediates
suggest that asymmetry can appear in the trimer, consonant with available
experimental data showing independent transport kinetics by individual
monomers in the trimers.
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.