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1.  Reduced alcohol intake and reward associated with impaired endocannabinoid signaling in mice with a deletion of the glutamate transporter GLAST 
Neuropharmacology  2012;63(2):181-189.
A hyperglutamatergic state has been hypothesized to drive escalation of alcohol intake. This hypothesis predicts that an impairment of glutamate clearance through inactivation of the astrocytic glutamate transporter, GLAST (EAAT1), will result in escalation of alcohol consumption. Here, we used mice with a deletion of GLAST to test this prediction. WT and GLAST KO mice were tested for alcohol consumption using two-bottle free-choice drinking. Alcohol reward was evaluated using conditioned place preference (CPP). Sensitivity to depressant alcohol effects was tested using the accelerating rotarod, alcohol-induced hypothermia, and loss of righting reflex. Extracellular glutamate was measured using microdialysis, and striatal slice electrophysiology was carried out to examine plasticity of the cortico-striatal pathway as a model system in which adaptations to the constitutive GLAST deletion can be studied. Contrary to our hypothesis, GLAST KO mice showed markedly decreased alcohol consumption, and lacked CPP for alcohol, despite a higher locomotor response to this drug. Alcohol-induced ataxia, hypothermia, and sedation were unaffected. In striatal slices from GLAST KO mice, long-term depression (LTD) induced by high frequency stimulation, or by post-synaptic depolarization combined with the L-type calcium channel activator FPL 64176 was absent. In contrast, normal synaptic depression was observed after application of the cannabinoid 1 (CB1) receptor agonist WIN55,212-2. Constitutive deletion of GLAST unexpectedly results in markedly reduced alcohol consumption and preference, associated with markedly reduced alcohol reward. Endocannabinoid signaling appears to be down-regulated upstream of the CB1 receptor as a result of the GLAST deletion, and is a candidate mechanism behind the reduction of alcohol reward observed.
PMCID: PMC3372600  PMID: 22342743
glutamate transporter; alcohol; reward; endocannabinoid
2.  NMDA receptor subunits have different roles in NMDA-induced neurotoxicity in the retina 
Molecular Brain  2013;6:34.
Loss of retinal ganglion cells (RGCs) is a hallmark of various retinal diseases including glaucoma, retinal ischemia, and diabetic retinopathy. N-methyl-D-aspartate (NMDA)-type glutamate receptor (NMDAR)-mediated excitotoxicity is thought to be an important contributor to RGC death in these diseases. Native NMDARs are heterotetramers that consist of GluN1 and GluN2 subunits, and GluN2 subunits (GluN2A–D) are major determinants of the pharmacological and biophysical properties of NMDARs. All NMDAR subunits are expressed in RGCs in the retina. However, the relative contribution of the different GluN2 subunits to RGC death by excitotoxicity remains unclear.
GluN2B- and GluN2D-deficiency protected RGCs from NMDA-induced excitotoxic retinal cell death. Pharmacological inhibition of the GluN2B subunit attenuated RGC loss in glutamate aspartate transporter deficient mice.
Our data suggest that GluN2B- and GluN2D-containing NMDARs play a critical role in NMDA-induced excitotoxic retinal cell death and RGC degeneration in glutamate aspartate transporter deficient mice. Inhibition of GluN2B and GluN2D activity is a potential therapeutic strategy for the treatment of several retinal diseases.
PMCID: PMC3733768  PMID: 23902942
NMDA receptor; GluN2B; GluN2D; Excitotoxicity; Retina; Glaucoma; Glutamate transporter
3.  Delta-like 1 regulates Bergmann glial monolayer formation during cerebellar development 
Molecular Brain  2013;6:25.
Bergmann glia (BG) are unipolar cerebellar astrocytes. The somata of mature BG reside in the Purkinje cell layer and extend radially arranged processes to the pial surface. BG have multiple branched processes, which enwrap the synapses of Purkinje cell dendrites. They migrate from the ventricular zone and align next to the Purkinje cell layer during development. Previously, we reported that Notch1, Notch2, and RBPj genes in the BG play crucial roles in the monolayer formation and morphogenesis of BG. However, it remains to be determined which ligand activates Nocth1 and Notch 2 on BG. Delta-like 1 (Dll1) is a major ligand of Notch receptors that is expressed in the developing cerebellum.
In this study, we used human glial fibrillary acidic protein (hGFAP) promoter-driven Cre-mediated recombination to delete Dll1 in BG. Dll1-conditional mutant mice showed disorganization of Bergmann fibers, ectopic localization of BG in the molecular layer and a reduction in the number of BG.
These results suggest that Dll1 is required for the formation of the BG layer and its morphological maturation, apparently through a Notch1/2-RBPj dependent signaling pathway.
PMCID: PMC3724498  PMID: 23688253
Bergmann glia; Notch signaling; Delta like 1; Conditional knockout mouse; Monolayer formation
4.  Dock3 interaction with a glutamate-receptor NR2D subunit protects neurons from excitotoxicity 
Molecular Brain  2013;6:22.
N-methyl-D-aspartate receptors (NMDARs) are critical for neuronal development and synaptic plasticity. Dysregulation of NMDARs is implicated in neuropsychiatric disorders. Native NMDARs are heteromultimeric protein complexes consisting of NR1 and NR2 subunits. NR2 subunits (NR2A–D) are the major determinants of the functional properties of NMDARs. Most research has focused on NR2A- and/or NR2B-containing receptors. A recent study demonstrated that NR2C- and/or NR2D-containing NMDARs are the primary targets of memantine, a drug that is widely prescribed to treat Alzheimer’s disease. Our laboratory demonstrated that memantine prevents the loss of retinal ganglion cells (RGCs) in GLAST glutamate transporter knockout mice, a model of normal tension glaucoma (NTG), suggesting that NR2D-containing receptors may be involved in RGC loss in NTG.
Here we demonstrate that NR2D deficiency attenuates RGC loss in GLAST-deficient mice. Furthermore, Dock3, a guanine nucleotide exchange factor, binds to the NR2D C-terminal domain and reduces the surface expression of NR2D, thereby protecting RGCs from excitotoxicity.
These results suggest that NR2D is involved in the degeneration of RGCs induced by excitotoxicity, and that the interaction between NR2D and Dock3 may have a neuroprotective effect. These findings raise the possibility that NR2D and Dock3 might be potential therapeutic targets for treating neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s disease and NTG.
PMCID: PMC3652797  PMID: 23641686
NMDA receptor; NR2D; Dock3; Excitotoxicity; Glaucoma; Memantine; Glutamate transporter
5.  Hyperactivation of the habenula as a link between depression and sleep disturbance 
Depression occurs frequently with sleep disturbance such as insomnia. Sleep in depression is associated with disinhibition of the rapid eye movement (REM) sleep. Despite the coincidence of the depression and sleep disturbance, neural substrate for depressive behaviors and sleep regulation remains unknown. Habenula is an epithalamic structure regulating the activities of monoaminergic neurons in the brain stem. Since the imaging studies showed blood flow increase in the habenula of depressive patients, hyperactivation of the habenula has been implicated in the pathophysiology of the depression. Recent electrophysiological studies reported a novel role of the habenular structure in regulation of REM sleep. In this article, we propose possible cellular mechanisms which could elicit the hyperactivation of the habenular neurons and a hypothesis that dysfunction in the habenular circuit causes the behavioral and sleep disturbance in depression. Analysis of the animals with hyperactivated habenula would open the door to understand roles of the habenula in the heterogeneous symptoms such as reduced motor behavior and altered REM sleep in depression.
PMCID: PMC3857532  PMID: 24339810
habenula; depression; monoamines; rapid eye movement sleep (REMS); glutamate transporters; glutamates
6.  Neuronal glutamate transporters regulate glial excitatory transmission 
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.
PMCID: PMC3532047  PMID: 22302796
synaptic transmission; Purkinje cell; parallel fiber; EAAT4
7.  Assessment of Glutamate Transporter GLAST (EAAT1)-Deficient Mice for Phenotypes Relevant to the Negative and Executive/Cognitive Symptoms of Schizophrenia 
Neuropsychopharmacology  2008;34(6):1578-1589.
Glutamatergic dysfunction is increasingly implicated in the pathophysiology of schizophrenia. Current models postulate that dysfunction of glutamate and its receptors underlie many of the symptoms in this disease. However, the mechanisms involved are not well understood. Although elucidating the role for glutamate transporters in the disease has been limited by the absence of pharmacological tools that selectively target the transporter, we recently showed that glial glutamate and aspartate transporter (GLAST; excitatory amino-acid transporter 1) mutant mice exhibit abnormalities on behavioral measures thought to model the positive symptoms of schizophrenia, some of which were rescued by treatment with either haloperidol or the mGlu2/3 agonist, LY379268 the mGlu2/3 agonist, LY379268. To further determine the role of GLAST in schizophrenia-related behaviors we tested GLAST mutant mice on a series of behavioral paradigms associated with the negative (social withdrawal, anhedonia), sensorimotor gating (prepulse inhibition of startle), and executive/cognitive (discrimination learning, extinction) symptoms of schizophrenia. GLAST knockout (KO) mice showed poor nesting behavior and abnormal sociability, whereas KO and heterozygous (HET) both demonstrated lesser preference for a novel social stimulus compared to wild-type littermate controls. GLAST KO, but not HET, had a significantly reduced acoustic startle response, but no significant deficit in prepulse inhibition of startle. GLAST KO and HET showed normal sucrose preference. In an instrumental visual discrimination task, KO showed impaired learning. By contrast, acquisition and extinction of a simple instrumental response was normal. The mGlu2/3 agonist, LY379268, failed to rescue the discrimination impairment in KO mice. These findings demonstrate that gene deletion of GLAST produces select phenotypic abnormalities related to the negative and cognitive symptoms of schizophrenia.
PMCID: PMC3400972  PMID: 19078949
glutamate; schizophrenia; cognition; prepulse inhibition; social withdrawal; anhedonia
8.  Overstimulation of NMDA Receptors Impairs Early Brain Development in vivo 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(5):e36853.
Brains of patients with schizophrenia show both neurodevelopmental and functional deficits that suggest aberrant glutamate neurotransmission. Evidence from both genetic and pharmacological studies suggests that glutamatergic dysfunction, particularly with involvement of NMDARs, plays a critical role in the pathophysiology of schizophrenia. However, how prenatal disturbance of NMDARs leads to schizophrenia-associated developmental defects is largely unknown.
Methodology/Principal Findings
Glutamate transporter GLAST/GLT1 double-knockout (DKO) mice carrying the NMDA receptor 1 subunit (NR1)-null mutation were generated. Bouin-fixed and paraffin-embedded embryonic day 16.5 coronal brain sections were stained with hematoxylin, anti-microtubule-associated protein 2 (MAP2), and anti-L1 antibodies to visualize cortical, hippocampal, and olfactory bulb laminar structure, subplate neurons, and axonal projections. NR1 deletion in DKO mice almost completely rescued multiple brain defects including cortical, hippocampal, and olfactory bulb disorganization and defective corticothalamic and thalamocortical axonal projections.
Excess glutamatergic signaling in the prenatal stage compromises early brain development via overstimulation of NMDARs.
PMCID: PMC3350466  PMID: 22606296
9.  GLT-1 Loss Accelerates Cognitive Deficit Onset in an Alzheimer's Disease Animal Model 
Journal of Alzheimer's Disease  2011;26(3):447-455.
Glutamate transporters regulate normal synaptic network interactions and prevent neurotoxicity by rapidly clearing extracellular glutamate. GLT-1, the dominant glutamate transporter in the cerebral cortex and hippocampus, is significantly reduced in Alzheimer's disease (AD). However, the role GLT-1 loss plays in the cognitive dysfunction and pathology of AD is unknown. To determine the significance of GLT-1 dysfunction on AD-related pathological processes, mice lacking one allele for GLT-1(+/−) were crossed with transgenic mice expressing mutations of the amyloid-β protein precursor and presenilin-1 (AβPPswe/PS1ΔE9) and investigated at 6 or 9 months of age. Partial loss of GLT-1 unmasked spatial memory deficits in 6-month-old mice expressing AβPPswe/PS1ΔE9, with these mice also exhibiting an increase in the ratio of detergent-insoluble Aβ42/Aβ40. At 9 months both behavioral performance and insoluble Aβ42/Aβ40 ratios among GLT-1(+/+)/AβPPswe/PS1 E9 and GLT-1(+/−)/AβPPswe/PS1ΔE9 mice were comparable. These results suggest that deficits in glutamate transporter function compound the effects of familial AD AβPP/PS1 mutant transgenes in younger animals and thus may contribute to early occurring pathogenic processes associated with AD.
PMCID: PMC3256092  PMID: 21677376
Amyloid-β; dementia; excitatory; excitotoxicity; neurotransmission
10.  Aberrant Detergent-Insoluble Excitatory Amino Acid Transporter 2 Accumulates in Alzheimer Disease 
Alzheimer disease (AD) is characterized by deposition of amyloid-β, tau, and other specific proteins that accumulate in the brain in detergent-insoluble complexes. AD also involves glutamatergic neurotransmitter system disturbances. Excitatory amino acid transporter 2 (EAAT2) is the dominant glutamate transporter in cerebral cortex and hippocampus. We investigated whether accumulation of detergent-insoluble EAAT2 is related to cognitive impairment and neuropathologic changes in AD by quantifying detergent-insoluble EAAT2 levels in hippocampus and frontal cortex of cognitively normal patients, patients with clinical dementia rating (CDR) = 0.5 (mildly impaired), and AD patients. Parkinson disease (PD) patients served as neurodegenerative disease controls. We found that Triton X-100-insoluble EAAT2 levels were significantly increased in patients with AD compared to controls, while Triton X-100-insoluble EAAT2 levels in CDR = 0.5 patients were intermediately elevated between control and AD subjects. Detergent-insolubility of Presenilin-1, a structurally similar protein, did not differ among the groups, thus arguing EAAT2 detergent-insolubility was not due to nonspecific cellular injury. These findings demonstrate that detergent-insoluble EAAT2 accumulation is a progressive biochemical lesion that correlates with cognitive impairment and neuropathologic changes in AD. These findings lend further support to the idea that dysregulation of the glutamatergic system may play a significant role in AD pathogenesis.
PMCID: PMC3097122  PMID: 20535038
Glutamate; Alzheimer disease; EAAT2; Excitotoxicity; Mild cognitive impairment; Protein aggregation; Oxidative stress; SLC1A2
11.  Zones of Enhanced Glutamate Release from Climbing Fibers in the Mammalian Cerebellum 
Purkinje cells in the mammalian cerebellum are remarkably homogeneous in shape and orientation, yet they exhibit regional differences in gene expression. Purkinje cells that express high levels of zebrin II (aldolase C) and the glutamate transporter EAAT4, cluster in parasagittal zones that receive input from distinct groups of climbing fibers (CFs); however, the physiological properties of CFs that target these molecularly distinct Purkinje cells have not been determined. Here we report that CFs that innervate Purkinje cells in zebrin II immunoreactive (Z+) zones release more glutamate per action potential than CFs in Z− zones. CF terminals in Z+ zones had larger pools of release-ready vesicles, exhibited enhanced multivesicular release, and produced larger glutamate transients. As a result, CF-mediated excitatory postsynaptic currents (EPSCs) in Purkinje cells decayed more slowly in Z+ zones, which triggered longer duration complex spikes containing a greater number of spikelets. The differences in the duration of CF EPSCs between Z+ and Z− zones persisted in EAAT4 knockout mice, indicating that EAAT4 is not required for maintaining this aspect of CF function. These results indicate that the organization of the cerebellum into discrete longitudinal zones is defined not only by molecular phenotype of Purkinje cells within zones, but also by the physiological properties of CFs that project to these distinct regions. The enhanced release of glutamate from CFs in Z+ zones may alter the threshold for synaptic plasticity and prolong inhibition of cerebellar output neurons in deep cerebellar nuclei.
PMCID: PMC2894469  PMID: 20505095
12.  The Glutamate Transporter GLT1a Is Expressed in Excitatory Axon Terminals of Mature Hippocampal 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.
PMCID: PMC2849838  PMID: 14762132
uptake; trafficking; alternative splicing; excitotoxicity; PDZ domain; synapse
13.  Proteomic analyses of retina of excitatory amino acid carrier 1 deficient mice 
Proteome Science  2007;5:13.
Excitatory amino acid carrier 1 (EAAC1) is a glutamate transporter found in neuronal tissues and is extensively expressed in the retina. EAAC1 plays a role in a variety of neural functions, but its biological functions in the retina has not been fully determined. The purpose of this study was to identify proteins regulated by EAAC1 in the retina of mice. To accomplish this, we used a proteomics-based approach to identify proteins that are up- or down-regulated in EAAC1-deficient (EAAC1-/-) mice.
Proteomic analyses and two-dimensional gel electorphoresis were performed on the retina of EAAC1-/- mice, and the results were compared to that of wild type mice. The protein spots showing significant differences were selected for identification by mass spectrometric analyses. Thirteen proteins were differentially expressed; nine proteins were up-regulated and five proteins were down-regulated in EAAC1-/- retina. Functional clustering showed that identified proteins are involved in various cellular process, e.g. cell cycle, cell death, transport and metabolism.
We identified thirteen proteins whose expression is changed in EAAC-/- mice retinas. These proteins are known to regulate cell proliferation, death, transport, metabolism, cell organization and extracellular matrix.
PMCID: PMC2014740  PMID: 17711584
14.  The potential role of glutamate transporters in the pathogenesis of normal tension glaucoma 
Journal of Clinical Investigation  2007;117(7):1763-1770.
Glaucoma, a progressive optic neuropathy due to retinal ganglion cell (RGC) degeneration, is one of the leading causes of irreversible blindness. Although glaucoma is often associated with elevated intraocular pressure (IOP), IOP elevation is not detected in a significant subset of glaucomas, such as normal tension glaucoma (NTG). Moreover, in some glaucoma patients, significant IOP reduction does not prevent progression of the disease. Thus, understanding IOP-independent mechanisms of RGC loss is important. Here, we show that mice deficient in the glutamate transporters GLAST or EAAC1 demonstrate spontaneous RGC and optic nerve degeneration without elevated IOP. In GLAST-deficient mice, the glutathione level in Müller glia was decreased; administration of glutamate receptor blocker prevented RGC loss. In EAAC1-deficient mice, RGCs were more vulnerable to oxidative stress. These findings suggest that glutamate transporters are necessary both to prevent excitotoxic retinal damage and to synthesize glutathione, a major cellular antioxidant and tripeptide of glutamate, cysteine, and glycine. We believe these mice are the first animal models of NTG that offer a powerful system for investigating mechanisms of neurodegeneration in NTG and developing therapies directed at IOP-independent mechanisms of RGC loss.
PMCID: PMC1890997  PMID: 17607354
15.  Imprinting modulates processing of visual information in the visual wulst of chicks 
BMC Neuroscience  2006;7:75.
Imprinting behavior is one form of learning and memory in precocial birds. With the aim of elucidating of the neural basis for visual imprinting, we focused on visual information processing.
A lesion in the visual wulst, which is similar functionally to the mammalian visual cortex, caused anterograde amnesia in visual imprinting behavior. Since the color of an object was one of the important cues for imprinting, we investigated color information processing in the visual wulst. Intrinsic optical signals from the visual wulst were detected in the early posthatch period and the peak regions of responses to red, green, and blue were spatially organized from the caudal to the nasal regions in dark-reared chicks. This spatial representation of color recognition showed plastic changes, and the response pattern along the antero-posterior axis of the visual wulst altered according to the color the chick was imprinted to.
These results indicate that the thalamofugal pathway is critical for learning the imprinting stimulus and that the visual wulst shows learning-related plasticity and may relay processed visual information to indicate the color of the imprint stimulus to the memory storage region, e.g., the intermediate medial mesopallium.
PMCID: PMC1657023  PMID: 17101060
16.  Glia- and neuron-specific functions of TrkB signalling during retinal degeneration and regeneration 
Nature Communications  2011;2:189-.
Glia, the support cells of the central nervous system, have recently attracted considerable attention both as mediators of neural cell survival and as sources of neural regeneration. To further elucidate the role of glial and neural cells in neurodegeneration, we generated TrkBGFAP and TrkBc-kit knockout mice in which TrkB, a receptor for brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), is deleted in retinal glia or inner retinal neurons, respectively. Here, we show that the extent of glutamate-induced retinal degeneration was similar in these two mutant mice. Furthermore in TrkBGFAP knockout mice, BDNF did not prevent photoreceptor degeneration and failed to stimulate Müller glial cell proliferation and expression of neural markers in the degenerating retina. These results demonstrate that BDNF signalling in glia has important roles in neural protection and regeneration, particularly in conversion of Müller glia to photoreceptors. In addition, our genetic models provide a system in which glia- and neuron-specific gene functions can be tested in central nervous system tissues in vivo.
The central nervous system contains glial cells, which have been shown to have an important role in neuronal survival. Harada et al. use transgenic mouse models to show that TrkB, a receptor for the growth factor brain-derived neurotrophic factor, is required for retinal Müller glial cells to provide neuroprotection and regeneration.
PMCID: PMC3105320  PMID: 21304518

Results 1-16 (16)