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.
Functional maturation of astroglia is characterized by the development of a unique, ramified morphology and the induction of important functional proteins, such as glutamate transporter GLT1. Although pathways regulating the early fate specification of astroglia have been characterized, mechanisms regulating postnatal maturation of astroglia remain essentially unknown. Here we used a new in vivo approach to illustrate and quantitatively analyze developmental arborization of astroglial processes. Our analysis found a particularly high increase in the number of VGluT1+ neuronal glutamatergic synapses that are ensheathed by processes from individual developing astroglia from postnatal day (P) 14 to P26, when astroglia undergo dramatic postnatal maturation. Subsequent silencing of VGluT1+ synaptic activity in VGluT1 KO mice significantly reduces astroglial domain growth and the induction of GLT1 in the cortex, but has no effect on astroglia in the hypothalamus, where non-VGluT1+ synaptic signaling predominates. In particular, electron microscopy analysis showed that the loss of VGluT1+ synaptic signaling significantly decreases perisynaptic enshealthing of astroglial processes on synapses. To further determine whether synaptically released glutamate mediates VGluT1+ synaptic signaling, we pharmacologically inhibited and genetically ablated metabotropic glutamate receptors (mGluRs, especially mGluR5) in developing cortical astroglia and found that developmental arborization of astroglial processes and expression of functional proteins, such as GLT1, is significantly decreased. In summary, our genetic analysis provides new in vivo evidence that VGluT1+ glutamatergic signaling, mediated by the astroglial mGluR5 receptor, regulates the functional maturation of cortical astroglia during development. These results elucidate a new mechanism for regulating the developmental formation of functional neuron-glia synaptic units.
astroglial mGluR5; developmental maturation; peripheral astroglial process; VGluT1
Fragile X syndrome (FXS) is a neurodevelopmental disorder caused by the loss-of-function of fragile X mental retardation protein (FMRP). The loss of FMRP function in neurons abolishes its suppression on mGluR1/5-dependent dendritic protein translation, enhancing mGluR1/5-dependent synaptic plasticity and other disease phenotypes in FXS. In this study, we describe a new activation function of FMRP in regulating protein expression in astroglial cells. We found that astroglial glutamate transporter subtype glutamate transporter 1 (GLT1) and glutamate uptake is significantly reduced in the cortex of fmr1−/− mice. Correspondingly, neuronal excitability is also enhanced in acute fmr1−/− (but not in fmr1+/+ control) cortical slices treated with low doses (10 μm) of the GLT1-specific inhibitor dihydrokainate (DHK). Using mismatched astrocyte and neuron co-cultures, we demonstrate that the loss of astroglial (but not neuronal) FMRP particularly reduces neuron-dependent GLT1 expression and glutamate uptake in co-cultures. Interestingly, protein (but not mRNA) expression and the (S)-3,5-dihydroxyphenylglycine-dependent Ca2+ responses of astroglial mGluR5 receptor are also selectively reduced in fmr1−/− astrocytes and brain slices, attenuating neuron-dependent GLT1 expression. Subsequent FMRP immunoprecipitation and QRT–PCR analysis showed that astroglial mGluR5 (but not GLT1) mRNA is associated with FMRP. In summary, our results provide evidence that FMRP positively regulates translational expression of mGluR5 in astroglial cells, and FMRP-dependent down-regulation of mGluR5 underlies GLT1 dysregulation in fmr1−/− astrocytes. The dysregulation of GLT1 and reduced glutamate uptake may potentially contribute to enhanced neuronal excitability observed in the mouse model of FXS.
Astrocyte heterogeneity remains largely unknown in the CNS due to lack of specific astroglial markers. In this study, molecular identity of in vivo astrocytes was characterized in BAC ALDH1L1 and BAC GLT1 eGFP promoter reporter transgenic mice. ALDH1L1 promoter is selectively activated in adult cortical and spinal cord astrocytes, indicated by the overlap of eGFP expression with ALDH1L1 and GFAP, but not with NeuN, APC, Olig2, IbaI, PDGFRα immunoreactivity in BAC ALDH1L1 eGFP reporter mice. Interestingly, ALDH1L1 expression levels (protein, mRNA, and promoter activity) in spinal cord were selectively decreased during postnatal maturation. In contrast, its expression was up-regulated in reactive astrocytes in both acute neural injury and chronic neurodegenerative (G93A mutant SOD1) conditions, similar to GFAP, but opposite of GLT1. ALDH1L1+ and GLT1+ cells isolated through fluorescence activated cell sorting (FACS) from BAC ALDH1L1 and BAC GLT1 eGFP mice share a highly similar gene expression profile, suggesting ALDH1L1 and GLT1 are co-expressed in the same population of astrocytes. This observation was further supported by overlap of the eGFP driven by the ALDH1L1 genomic promoter and the tdTomato driven by a 8.3kb EAAT2 promoter fragment in astrocytes of BAC ALDH1L1 eGFP X EAAT2-tdTomato mice. These studies support ALDH1L1 as a general CNS astroglial marker and investigated astrocyte heterogeneity in the CNS by comparing the molecular identity of the ALDH1L1+ and GLT1+ astrocytes from astroglial reporter mice. These astroglial reporter mice provide useful in vivo tools for the molecular analysis of astrocytes in physiological and pathological conditions.
astroglia; BAC; ALDH1L1; GLT1; GFAP; oligodendroglia; ALS
Recent studies suggest that astroglia, a major non-neuronal cell type in the central nervous system, actively participate in synaptic activity and potentially contribute to neurological disorders including chronic pain. Astroglia exhibit a hyperactive phenotype, also referred to as reactive astrocytosis, in response to peripheral injury. This process is often referred to as astroglial activation. By immunostaining against glial fibrillary acidic proteins, an intermediate cytoskeleton filament protein selectively localized to matured astrocytes, hypertrophy of astrocytes are clearly visible in the spinal cord dorsal horn and spinal trigeminal nucleus following a variety of injuries. Injury-related astroglial activation correlates with behavioral hyperalgesia and conversely, astroglial inhibition attenuates pain hypersensitivity. Astrocytes have a close anatomical relationship with neurons. Interactions between astrocytes and neurons contribute to the mechanisms of chronic pain. Astroglial activation is accompanied by initiation of cellular signal transduction pathways that lead to transcriptional gene regulation and release of a variety of chemical mediators or gliotransmitters, down-regulation of glutamate transporter activity that directly affects synaptic transmission, changes in gap junction proteins by which calcium waves spread, and alterations of the blood brain barrier. These coordinated changes in astroglial functions in turn modulate neuronal activity and facilitate pain transmission.
Astrocytes; Glial activation; Gliotransmitters; Glia-neuronal interaction; Persistent pain
Transforming growth factor β1 (TGF-β1) is a pleiotropic cytokine expressed throughout the CNS. Previous studies demonstrated that TGF-β1 contributes to maintain neuronal survival, but mechanistically this effect is not well understood. We generated a CNS-specific TGF-β1-deficient mouse model to investigate the functional consequences of TGF-β1-deficiency in the adult mouse brain. We found that depletion of TGF-β1 in the CNS resulted in a loss of the astrocyte glutamate transporter (GluTs) proteins GLT-1 (EAAT2) and GLAST (EAAT1) and decreased glutamate uptake in the mouse hippocampus. Treatment with TGF-β1 induced the expression of GLAST and GLT-1 in cultured astrocytes and enhanced astroglial glutamate uptake. Similar to GLT-1-deficient mice, CNS-TGF-β1-deficient mice had reduced brain weight and neuronal loss in the CA1 hippocampal region. CNS-TGF-β1-deficient mice showed GluN2B-dependent aberrant synaptic plasticity in the CA1 area of the hippocampus similar to the glutamate transport inhibitor DL-TBOA and these mice were highly sensitive to excitotoxic injury. In addition, hippocampal neurons from TGF-β1-deficient mice had elevated GluN2B-mediated calcium signals in response to extrasynaptic glutamate receptor stimulation, whereas cells treated with TGF-β1 exhibited reduced GluN2B-mediated calcium signals. In summary, our study demonstrates a previously unrecognized function of TGF-β1 in the CNS to control extracellular glutamate homeostasis and GluN2B-mediated calcium responses in the mouse hippocampus.
TGF-β1; glutamate uptake; hippocampus; neuronal calcium; extrasynaptic; 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.
glutamate transport; NF-κB; astrocytes; p65; p50; EAAT2; GLT-1; IκBα
Glutamate is the major excitatory neurotransmitter of the central nervous system and is toxic to neurons even at low concentrations. GLT1, the rodent analog of human EAAT2, is primarily responsible for glutamate clearance in the cerebrum. GLT1 was thought to be expressed exclusively in astrocytes in the mature brain. Recently, however, GLT1a was demonstrated in excitatory axon terminals where synaptic glutamate concentration rises above 1 mM during excitatory transmission. However, GLT1 function in neurons with accurate control of both intracellular and extracellular solutions mimicking synaptic concentration gradients has never been studied. Here we characterized the kinetics of coupled glutamate transporter current in whole-cell configuration and [3H]-L-glutamate uptake in cultured rat cerebral neurons across the entire range of synaptic glutamate concentrations. In both neurons and GLT1a transfected COS-7 cells, the kinetics were similar and revealed two specific components: a high affinity component with glutamate kD value around 15 μM and low affinity component with kD value around 0.2 mM. The specific low affinity component was discovered due to significant deviation of the transporter current from Michaelis-Menten kinetics in the 100 – 300 μM concentration range. Activation of the specific low affinity component led to a twofold decrease in the current/flux ratio implying a change in the transport coupling. Our data indicate that GLT1 endogenously expressed in cultured rat forebrain neurons displays high and low glutamate affinity uptake components that are different in current/flux coupling ratios. This property is intrinsic to the protein because it was also observed in GLT1a transfected COS-7 cells.
GLT1; patch-clamp; whole cell; current/flux coupling; excitotoxicity; presynaptic; synapse
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
Previously we have used a microwell tissue culture assay to show that early postnatal mouse cerebellar astroglia have a flattened morphology and proliferate rapidly when they are cultured in the absence of neurons, but develop specific cell-cell contacts and undergo morphological differentiation when they are co-cultured with purified granule neurons (Hatten, M. E., 1985, J. Cell Biol., 100:384-396). In these studies of cell binding between neurons and astroglia, measurement with light and fluorescence microscopy or with [35S]methionine-labeled cells indicated that the kinetics of the binding of the neurons to astroglial cells are rapid, occurring within 10 min of the addition of the neurons to the growing glia. 6 h after neuronal attachment, astroglial DNA synthesis decreases, as shown by a two- to fivefold decrease in [3H]thymidine incorporation, and glial growth ceases. No effects on astroglial cell growth were seen after adding medium conditioned by purified cerebellar neurons cultured in the absence of astroglia, by astroglia cultured in the absence of neurons, or by a mixed population of cerebellar cells. This result was unchanged when any of these media were concentrated up to 50-fold, or when neurons and astroglia were cultured in separate chambers with confluent medium. Two groups of experiments suggest that membrane- membrane interactions between granule neurons and astroglia control astroglial cell growth. First, neurons fixed with dilute amounts of paraformaldehyde (0.5%) bound to the astroglia with the same kinetics as did living cells, inhibited DNA synthesis, and arrested glial growth within hours. Second, a cell membrane preparation of highly purified granule neurons also bound rapidly to the glia, decreased [3H]thymidine incorporation two- to fivefold and inhibited astroglial cell growth. The rate of the decrease in glial growth depended on the concentration of the granule neural membrane preparation added. A similar membrane preparation from purified cerebellar astroglial cells, PC12 cells, 3T3 mouse fibroblasts, or PTK rat epithelial cells did not decrease astroglial cell growth rates. Living neurons were the only preparation that both inhibited glial DNA synthesis and induced the astroglial cells to transform from the flat, epithelial shapes they have when they are cultured without neurons to highly differentiated forms that resemble Bergmann glia or astrocytes seen in vivo. These results suggest that membrane-membrane interactions between neurons and astroglia inhibit astroglial proliferation in vitro, and raise the possibility that membrane elements involved in glial growth regulation include neuron-glial interaction molecules.
Dysregulation of glutamate handling ensuing downregulation of expression and activity levels of the astroglial glutamate transporter EAAT2 is implicated in excitotoxic degeneration of motor neurons in amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS). We previously reported that EAAT2 (a.k.a. GLT-1) is cleaved by caspase-3 at its cytosolic carboxy-terminus domain. This cleavage results in impaired glutamate transport activity and generates a proteolytic fragment (CTE) that we found to be post-translationally conjugated by SUMO1. We show here that this sumoylated CTE fragment accumulates in the nucleus of spinal cord astrocytes of the SOD1-G93A mouse model of ALS at symptomatic stages of disease. Astrocytic expression of CTE, artificially tagged with SUMO1 (CTE-SUMO1) to mimic the native sumoylated fragment, recapitulates the nuclear accumulation pattern of the endogenous EAAT2-derived proteolytic fragment. Moreover, in a co-culture binary system, expression of CTE-SUMO1 in spinal cord astrocytes initiates extrinsic toxicity by inducing caspase-3 activation in motor neuron-derived NSC-34 cells or axonal growth impairment in primary motor neurons. Interestingly, prolonged nuclear accumulation of CTE-SUMO1 is intrinsically toxic to spinal cord astrocytes, although this gliotoxic effect of CTE-SUMO1 occurs later than the indirect, non-cell autonomous toxic effect on motor neurons. As more evidence on the implication of SUMO substrates in neurodegenerative diseases emerges, our observations strongly suggest that the nuclear accumulation in spinal cord astrocytes of a sumoylated proteolytic fragment of the astroglial glutamate transporter EAAT2 could participate to the pathogenesis of ALS and suggest a novel, unconventional role for EAAT2 in motor neuron degeneration.
Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis; post-translational modification; SUMO; excitotoxicity
Impairment of astrocytic glutamate transporter (GLT-1; EAAT2) function is associated with multiple neurodegenerative diseases, including Parkinson's disease (PD) and manganism, the latter being induced by chronic exposure to high levels of manganese (Mn). Mn decreases EAAT2 promoter activity and mRNA and protein levels, but the molecular mechanism of Mn-induced EAAT2 repression at the transcriptional level has yet to be elucidated. We reveal that transcription factor Yin Yang 1 (YY1) is critical in repressing EAAT2 and mediates the effects of negative regulators, such as Mn and tumor necrosis factor alpha (TNF-α), on EAAT2. YY1 overexpression in astrocytes reduced EAAT2 promoter activity, while YY1 knockdown or mutation of the YY1 consensus site of the EAAT2 promoter increased its promoter activity and attenuated the Mn-induced repression of EAAT2. Mn increased YY1 promoter activity and mRNA and protein levels via NF-κB activation. This led to increased YY1 binding to the EAAT2 promoter region. Epigenetically, histone deacetylase (HDAC) classes I and II served as corepressors of YY1, and, accordingly, HDAC inhibitors increased EAAT2 promoter activity and reversed the Mn-induced repression of EAAT2 promoter activity. Taken together, our findings suggest that YY1, with HDACs as corepressors, is a critical negative transcriptional regulator of EAAT2 and mediates Mn-induced EAAT2 repression.
Astrocytes have been shown to protect neurons from delayed neuronal death and increase their survival in cerebral ischemia. One of the main mechanisms of astrocyte protection is rapid removal of excess glutamate from synaptic sites by astrocytic plasma membrane glutamate transporters such as GLT-1/EAAT-2, reducing excitotoxicity. Astrocytic mitochondrial function is essential for normal GLT-1 function. Manipulating astrocytic mitochondrial and GLT-1 function is thus an important strategy to enhance neuronal survival and improve outcome following cerebral ischemia. Increasing evidence supports the involvement of microRNAs (miRNA), some of them being astrocyte-enriched, in the regulation of cerebral ischemia. This chapter will first update the information about astrocytes, GLT-1, astrocytic mitochondria, and delayed neuronal death. Then we will focus on two recently reported astrocyte-enriched miRNAs (miR-181 and miR-29 families), their effects on astrocytic mitochondria and GLT-1 as well as on outcome after cerebral ischemia.
Astrocyte; glutamate transporter; GLT-1; microRNA; miR-181; miR-29; cerebral ischemia; delayed neuronal death
Astroglial scars surround damaged tissue after trauma, stroke, infection, or autoimmune inflammation in the CNS. They are essential for wound repair, but also interfere with axonal regrowth. A better understanding of the cellular mechanisms, regulation, and functions of astroglial scar formation is fundamental to developing safe interventions for many CNS disorders. We used wild-type and transgenic mice to quantify and dissect these parameters. Adjacent to crush spinal cord injury (SCI), reactive astrocytes exhibited heterogeneous phenotypes as regards proliferation, morphology, and chemistry, which all varied with distance from lesions. Mature scar borders at 14 d after SCI consisted primarily of newly proliferated astroglia with elongated cell processes that surrounded large and small clusters of inflammatory, fibrotic, and other cells. During scar formation from 5 to 14 d after SCI, cell processes deriving from different astroglia associated into overlapping bundles that quantifiably reoriented and organized into dense mesh-like arrangements. Selective deletion of STAT3 from astroglia quantifiably disrupted the organization of elongated astroglia into scar borders, and caused a failure of astroglia to surround inflammatory cells, resulting in increased spread of these cells and neuronal loss. In cocultures, wild-type astroglia spontaneously corralled inflammatory or fibromeningeal cells into segregated clusters, whereas STAT3-deficient astroglia failed to do so. These findings demonstrate heterogeneity of reactive astroglia and show that scar borders are formed by newly proliferated, elongated astroglia, which organize via STAT3-dependent mechanisms to corral inflammatory and fibrotic cells into discrete areas separated from adjacent tissue that contains viable neurons.
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
To identify glutamate transporters expressed in forebrain neurons, we prepared a cDNA library from rat forebrain neuronal cultures, previously shown to transport glutamate with high affinity and capacity. Using this library, we cloned two forms, varying in the C terminus, of the glutamate transporter GLT1. This transporter was previously found to be localized exclusively in astrocytes in the normal mature brain. Specific antibodies against the C-terminal peptides were used to show that forebrain neurons in culture express both GLT1a and GLT1b proteins. The pharmacological properties of glutamate transport mediated by GLT1a and GLT1b expressed in COS-7 cells and in neuronal cultures were indistinguishable. Both GLT1a and GLT1b were upregulated in astrocyte cultures by exposure to dibutyryl cAMP. We next investigated the expression of GLT1b in vivo. Northern blot analysis of forebrain RNA revealed two transcripts of ~3 and 11 kb that became more plentiful with developmental age. Immunoblot analysis showed high levels of expression in the cortex, hippocampus, striatum, thalamus, and midbrain. Pre-embedding electron microscopic immunocytochemistry with silver-enhanced immunogold detection was used to localize GLT1b in vivo. In the rat somatosensory cortex, GLT1b was clearly expressed in neurons in presynaptic terminals and dendritic shafts, as well as in astrocytes. The presence of GLT1b in neurons may offer a partial explanation for the observed uptake of glutamate by presynaptic terminals, for the preservation of input specificity at excitatory synapses, and may play a role in the pathophysiology of excitotoxicity.
glutamate; transport; dihydrokainate; presynaptic; astrocytes; synapse; excitotoxicity
Recent evidence suggests that the predominant astrocyte glutamate transporter, GLT-1/ Excitatory Amino Acid Transporter 2 (EAAT2) is associated with mitochondria. We used primary cultures of mouse astrocytes to assess co-localization of GLT-1 with mitochondria, and tested whether the interaction was dependent on neurons, actin polymerization or the kinesin adaptor, TRAK2. Mouse primary astrocytes were transfected with constructs expressing V5-tagged GLT-1, pDsRed1-Mito with and without dominant negative TRAK2. Astrocytes were visualized using confocal microscopy and co-localization was quantified using Volocity software. Image analysis of confocal z-stacks revealed no co-localization between mitochondria and GLT-1 in pure astrocyte cultures. Co-culture of astrocytes with primary mouse cortical neurons revealed more mitochondria in processes and a positive correlation between mitochondria and GLT-1. This co-localization was not further enhanced after neuronal depolarization induced by 1 h treatment with 15 mM K+. In pure astrocytes, a rho kinase inhibitor, Y27632 caused the distribution of mitochondria to astrocyte processes without enhancing GLT-1/mitochondrial co-localization, however, in co-cultures, Y27632 abolished mitochondrial:GLT-1 co-localization. Disrupting potential mitochondrial: kinesin interactions using dominant negative TRAK2 did not alter GLT-1 distribution or GLT-1: mitochondrial co-localization. We conclude that the association between GLT-1 and mitochondria is modest, is driven by synaptic activity and dependent on polymerized actin filaments.Mitochondria have limited co-localization with the glutamate transporter GLT-1 in primary astrocytes in culture. Few mitochondria are in the fine processes where GLT-1 is abundant. It is necessary to culture astrocytes with neurones to drive a significant level of co-localization, but co-localization is not further altered by depolarization, manipulating sodium ion gradients or Na/K ATPase activity.
co-culture; EAAT2; Glial cell; glutamate transporter; rho kinase; TRAK2
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.
Dysregulation of the astroglial glutamate transporters GLAST and GLT-1 has been implicated in several neurodegenerative disorders, including amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) where a loss of GLT-1 protein expression and activity is reported. Furthermore, the two principal C-terminal splice variants of GLT-1 (namely GLT-1a and GLT-1b) show altered expression ratio in animal models of this disease. Considering the putative link between inflammation and excitotoxicity, we have here characterized the influence of TNF-α on glutamate transporters in cerebral cortical astrocyte cultures from wild-type rats and from a rat model of ALS (hSOD1G93A). Contrasting with the down-regulation of GLAST, a 72 h treatment with TNF-α substantially increased the expression of GLT-1a and GLT-1b in both astrocyte cultures. However, as the basal level of GLT-1a appeared considerably lower in hSOD1G93A astrocytes, its up-regulation by TNF-α was insufficient to recapitulate the expression observed in wild-type astrocytes. Also the glutamate uptake activity after TNF-α treatment was lower for hSOD1G93A astrocytes as compared to wild-type astrocytes. In the presence of the protein synthesis inhibitor cycloheximide, TNF-α did not influence GLT-1 isoform expression, suggesting an active role of dynamically regulated protein partners in the adaptation of astrocytes to the inflammatory environment. Confirming the influence of inflammation on the control of glutamate transmission by astrocytes, these results shed light on the regulation of glutamate transporter isoforms in neurodegenerative disorders.
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
Forced expression of single defined transcription factors can selectively and stably convert cultured astroglia into synapse-forming excitatory and inhibitory neurons.
Astroglia from the postnatal cerebral cortex can be reprogrammed in vitro to generate neurons following forced expression of neurogenic transcription factors, thus opening new avenues towards a potential use of endogenous astroglia for brain repair. However, in previous attempts astroglia-derived neurons failed to establish functional synapses, a severe limitation towards functional neurogenesis. It remained therefore also unknown whether neurons derived from reprogrammed astroglia could be directed towards distinct neuronal subtype identities by selective expression of distinct neurogenic fate determinants. Here we show that strong and persistent expression of neurogenic fate determinants driven by silencing-resistant retroviral vectors instructs astroglia from the postnatal cortex in vitro to mature into fully functional, synapse-forming neurons. Importantly, the neurotransmitter fate choice of astroglia-derived neurons can be controlled by selective expression of distinct neurogenic transcription factors: forced expression of the dorsal telencephalic fate determinant neurogenin-2 (Neurog2) directs cortical astroglia to generate synapse-forming glutamatergic neurons; in contrast, the ventral telencephalic fate determinant Dlx2 induces a GABAergic identity, although the overall efficiency of Dlx2-mediated neuronal reprogramming is much lower compared to Neurog2, suggesting that cortical astroglia possess a higher competence to respond to the dorsal telencephalic fate determinant. Interestingly, however, reprogramming of astroglia towards the generation of GABAergic neurons was greatly facilitated when the astroglial cells were first expanded as neurosphere cells prior to transduction with Dlx2. Importantly, this approach of expansion under neurosphere conditions and subsequent reprogramming with distinct neurogenic transcription factors can also be extended to reactive astroglia isolated from the adult injured cerebral cortex, allowing for the selective generation of glutamatergic or GABAergic neurons. These data provide evidence that cortical astroglia can undergo a conversion across cell lineages by forced expression of a single neurogenic transcription factor, stably generating fully differentiated neurons. Moreover, neuronal reprogramming of astroglia is not restricted to postnatal stages but can also be achieved from terminally differentiated astroglia of the adult cerebral cortex following injury-induced reactivation.
The brain consists of two major cell types: neurons, which transmit information, and glial cells, which support and protect neurons. Interestingly, evidence suggests that some glial cells, including astroglia, can be directly converted into neurons by specific proteins, a transformation that may aid in the functional repair of damaged brain tissue. However, in order for the repaired brain areas to function properly, it is important that astroglia be directed into appropriate neuronal subclasses. In this study, we show that non-neurogenic astroglia from the cerebral cortex can be reprogrammed in vitro using just a single transcription factor to yield fully functional excitatory or inhibitory neurons. We achieved this result through forced expression of the same transcription factors that instruct the genesis of these distinct neuronal subtypes during embryonic forebrain development. Moreover we demonstrate that reactive astroglia isolated from the adult cortex after local injury can be reprogrammed into synapse-forming excitatory or inhibitory neurons following a similar strategy. Our findings provide evidence that endogenous glial cells may prove a promising strategy for replacing neurons that have degenerated due to trauma or disease.
Excitatory amino acid transporters (EAATs) use sodium and potassium gradients to remove glutamate from the synapse and surrounding extracellular space, thereby sustaining efficient synaptic transmission and maintaining extracellular glutamate concentrations at subneurotoxic levels. In addition to sodium-driven glutamate uptake, EAATs also mediate a glutamate-activated chloride conductance via a channel-like mechanism. EAATs are trimeric proteins and are thought to comprise three identical subunits. Previous studies have shown that the sodium-driven uptake of glutamate occurs independently in each of the three subunits. In contrast, a recent study reports high Hill coefficients for the activation of EAAT anion currents by glutamate and suggests that the subunits function cooperatively in gating the chloride conductance. In the present work, we find that the Hill coefficient for the activation of the anion current by glutamate is ~1 in both EAAT3 and EAAT4. Furthermore, we also used fluorescent labeling and inactivation correlation on EAAT3 and EAAT4 to determine whether the glutamate-activated chloride conductance is gated independently or cooperatively by the transporters. We found that both glutamate uptake currents and glutamate-activated chloride currents are mediated independently by each subunit of an EAAT multimer. It has been suggested that EAAT subtypes with particularly large anion conductances can directly influence the excitability of presynaptic terminals in certain neurons. Thus, the finding that the anion conductance is gated independently, rather than cooperatively, is important because it significantly alters predictions of the influence that EAAT-mediated anion currents will have on synaptic transmission at low glutamate concentrations.
anion conductance; chloride; independence; cooperativity; FLIC; glutamate transporter
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