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PLoS One. 2008;3(10):e3543. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0003543. Epub 2008 Oct 28.

Two distinct modes of hypoosmotic medium-induced release of excitatory amino acids and taurine in the rat brain in vivo.

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  • 1Center of Neuropharmacology and Neuroscience, Albany Medical College, Albany, New York, USA.


A variety of physiological and pathological factors induce cellular swelling in the brain. Changes in cell volume activate several types of ion channels, which mediate the release of inorganic and organic osmolytes and allow for compensatory cell volume decrease. Volume-regulated anion channels (VRAC) are thought to be responsible for the release of some of organic osmolytes, including the excitatory neurotransmitters glutamate and aspartate. In the present study, we compared the in vivo properties of the swelling-activated release of glutamate, aspartate, and another major brain osmolyte taurine. Cell swelling was induced by perfusion of hypoosmotic (low [NaCl]) medium via a microdialysis probe placed in the rat cortex. The hypoosmotic medium produced several-fold increases in the extracellular levels of glutamate, aspartate and taurine. However, the release of the excitatory amino acids differed from the release of taurine in several respects including: (i) kinetic properties, (ii) sensitivity to isoosmotic changes in [NaCl], and (iii) sensitivity to hydrogen peroxide, which is known to modulate VRAC. Consistent with the involvement of VRAC, hypoosmotic medium-induced release of the excitatory amino acids was inhibited by the anion channel blocker DNDS, but not by the glutamate transporter inhibitor TBOA or Cd2+, which inhibits exocytosis. In order to elucidate the mechanisms contributing to taurine release, we studied its release properties in cultured astrocytes and cortical synaptosomes. Similarities between the results obtained in vivo and in synaptosomes suggest that the swelling-activated release of taurine in vivo may be of neuronal origin. Taken together, our findings indicate that different transport mechanisms and/or distinct cellular sources mediate hypoosmotic medium-induced release of the excitatory amino acids and taurine in vivo.

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