Chapter 21 Glutamate Release from Astrocytic Gliosomes under Physiological and Pathological Conditions

Marco Milanese, Tiziana Bonifacino, Simona Zappettini, Cesare Usai, Carlo Tacchetti, Mario Nobile, Giambattista Bonanno

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Glial subcellular particles (gliosomes) have been purified from rat cerebral cortex or mouse spinal cord and investigated for their ability to release glutamate. Confocal microscopy showed that gliosomes are enriched with glia-specific proteins, such as GFAP and S-100 but not neuronal proteins, such as PSD-95, MAP-2, and β-tubulin III. Furthermore, gliosomes exhibit labeling neither for integrin-αM nor for myelin basic protein, specific for microglia and oligodendrocytes, respectively. The gliosomal fraction contains proteins of the exocytotic machinery coexisting with GFAP. Consistent with ultrastructural analysis, several nonclustered vesicles are present in the gliosome cytoplasm. Finally, gliosomes represent functional organelles that actively export glutamate when subjected to releasing stimuli, such as ionomycin, high KCl, veratrine, 4-aminopyridine, AMPA, or ATP by mechanisms involving extracellular Ca2+, Ca2+ release from intracellular stores as well as reversal of glutamate transporters. In addition, gliosomes can release glutamate also by a mechanism involving heterologous transporter activation (heterotransporters) located on glutamate-releasing and glutamate transporter-expressing (homotransporters) gliosomes. This glutamate release involves reversal of glutamate transporters and anion channel opening, but not exocytosis. Both the exocytotic and the heterotransporter-mediated glutamate release were more abundant in gliosomes prepared from the spinal cord of transgenic mice, model of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, than in controls; suggesting the involvement of astrocytic glutamate release in the excitotoxicity proposed as a cause of motor neuron degeneration. The results support the view that gliosomes may represent a viable preparation that allows to study mechanisms of astrocytic transmitter release and its regulation in healthy animals and in animal models of brain diseases.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)295-318
Number of pages24
JournalInternational Review of Neurobiology
Publication statusPublished - 2009

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Neurology
  • Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience


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