Neural precursor-derived astrocytes of wobbler mice induce apoptotic death of motor neurons through reduced glutamate uptake

Valentina Diana, Arianna Ottolina, Francesca Botti, Elena Fumagalli, Eleonora Calcagno, Massimiliano De Paola, Alfredo Cagnotto, Gloria Invernici, Eugenio Parati, Daniela Curti, Tiziana Mennini

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


In the present study, we investigated whether cultured astrocytes derived from adult neural precursor cells (NPCs) obtained from the subventricular zone (SVZ) of wobbler mice display metabolic traits of the wobbler astrocytes in situ and in primary culture. We also utilized NPC-derived astrocytes as a tool to investigate the involvement of astrocytes in the molecular mechanism of MND focusing on the possible alteration of glutamate reuptake since excitotoxicity glutamate-mediated may be a contributory pathway.NPC-derived wobbler astrocytes are characterized by high immunoreactivity for GFAP, significant decrease of glutamate uptake and reduced immunoreactivity for glutamate transporters GLT1 and GLAST. Spinal cord motor neurons obtained from healthy mouse embryos, when co-cultured with wobbler NPC-derived astrocytes, show reduced viability and morphologic alterations. These suffering motor neurons are caspase-7 positive, and treatment with anti-apoptotic drug V5 increases cell survival. Physical contact with wobbler astrocytes is not essential because purified motor neurons display reduced survival also when treated with the medium conditioned by wobbler NPC-derived astrocytes. Toxic levels of glutamate were revealed by HPLC assay in the extracellular medium of wobbler NPC-derived astrocytes, whereas the level of intracellular glutamate is reduced if compared with controls. Moreover, glutamate receptor antagonists are able to enhance motor neuron survival. Therefore, our results demonstrate that astrocytes derived from wobbler neural precursor cells display impaired glutamate homeostasis that may play a crucial role in motor neuron degeneration. Finally, the cultured astrocytes derived from NPCs of adult mice may offer a useful alternative in vitro model to study the molecular mechanisms involved in neurodegeneration.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)163-172
Number of pages10
JournalExperimental Neurology
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Sep 2010


  • Excitotoxicity
  • Glutamate transporters
  • Motor neuron disease
  • Stem cell
  • Uptake

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neurology
  • Developmental Neuroscience
  • Medicine(all)


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