The glial glutamate transporter GLT-1 is localized both in the vicinity of and at distance from axon terminals in the rat cerebral cortex

A. Minelli, P. Barbaresi, R. J. Reimer, R. H. Edwards, F. Conti

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Abstract

Glutamate transporter-1 (GLT-1) is responsible for the largest proportion of glutamate transport in the brain and the density of GLT-1 molecules inserted in the plasma membrane is highest in regions of high demand. Previous electron microscopic studies in the hippocampus and cerebellum have shown that GLT-1 is concentrated both in the vicinity of and at considerable distance from the synaptic cleft [Chaudry et al., Neuron 15 (1995) 711-721], but little is known about its distribution in the neocortex. We therefore studied the spatial relationships between elements expressing the presynaptic marker synaptophysin and those containing GLT-1 in the rat cerebral cortex using confocal microscopy. Preliminary studies confirmed that GLT-1 positive puncta were exclusively astrocytic processes; moreover, they showed that in most cases GLT-1 positive processes either completely surrounded asymmetric synapses or had no apparent relationship with synapses; occasionally, they were apposed to terminals containing pleomorphic vesicles. In sections double-labeled for GLT-1 and synaptophysin, codistribution analysis revealed that 61.2% of pixels detecting fluorescent emission for GLT-1 immunoreactivity overlapped with pixels detecting synaptophysin. The percentages of GLT-1/synaptophysin codistribution were significantly different from controls. In sections double-labeled for GLT-1 and the vesicular GABA transporter, codistribution analysis revealed that 27% of pixels detecting GLT-1 overlapped with those revealing the vesicular GABA transporter. The remarkable 'synaptic' localization of GLT-1 provides anatomical support for the hypothesis that in the cerebral cortex GLT-1 contributes to shaping fast, point-to-point, excitatory synaptic transmission. Moreover, the considerable fraction of GLT-1 immunoreactivity localized at sites distant from axon terminals supports the notion that glutamate spillout occurs also in the intact brain and suggests that 'extrasynaptic' GLT-1 regulates the diffusion of glutamate escaped from the cleft.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)51-59
Number of pages9
JournalNeuroscience
Volume108
Issue number1
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Dec 5 2001

Keywords

  • Astrocytes
  • Confocal microscopy
  • Glutamate spillover
  • Glutamate uptake
  • Synaptic vesicles

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience(all)

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