Glutamate oxidation in astrocytes: Roles of glutamate dehydrogenase and aminotransferases

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Mary C McKenna, Malin H Stridh, Laura Frendrup McNair, Ursula Sonnewald, Helle S. Waagepetersen, Arne Schousboe

The cellular distribution of transporters and enzymes related to glutamate metabolism led to the concept of the glutamate–glutamine cycle. Glutamate is released as a neurotransmitter and taken up primarily by astrocytes ensheathing the synapses. The glutamate carbon skeleton is transferred back to the presynaptic neurons as the nonexcitatory amino acid glutamine. The cycle was initially thought to function with a 1:1 ratio between glutamate released and glutamine taken up by neurons. However, studies of glutamate metabolism in astrocytes have shown that a considerable proportion of glutamate undergoes oxidative degradation; thus, quantitative formation of glutamine from the glutamate taken up is not possible. Oxidation of glutamate is initiated by transamination catalyzed by an aminotransferase, or oxidative deamination catalyzed by glutamate dehydrogenase (GDH). We discuss methods available to elucidate the enzymes that mediate this conversion. Methods include pharmacological tools such as the transaminase inhibitor aminooxyacetic acid, studies using GDH knockout mice, and siRNA-mediated knockdown of GDH in astrocytes. Studies in brain slices incubated with [15N]glutamate demonstrated activity of GDH in astrocytes in situ. These results, in conjunction with reports in the literature, support the conclusion that GDH is active in astrocytes both in culture and in vivo and that this enzyme plays a significant role in glutamate oxidation. Oxidative metabolism of glutamate, primarily mediated by GDH, but also by transamination by aspartate aminotransferase, provides considerably more energy than is required to maintain the activity of the high-affinity glutamate transporters needed for efficient removal of glutamate from the synaptic cleft.
Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Neuroscience Research
Volume94
Issue number12
Pages (from-to)1561-1571
Number of pages11
ISSN0360-4012
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 15 Sep 2016

ID: 169169600