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J Anat. 2008 Nov;213(5):539-46. doi: 10.1111/j.1469-7580.2008.00984.x.

Expression and distribution of 'high affinity' glutamate transporters GLT1, GLAST, EAAC1 and of GCPII in the rat peripheral nervous system.

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  • 1Department of Neurosciences and Biomedical Technologies, University of Milano-Bicocca, Monza (MI), Italy.


l-Glutamate is one of the major excitatory neurotransmitters in the mammalian central nervous system, but recently it has been shown to have a role also in the transduction of sensory input at the periphery, and in particular in the nociceptive pathway. An excess of glutamate is implicated in cases of peripheral neuropathies as well. Conventional therapeutic approaches for treating these diseases have focused on blocking glutamate receptors with small molecules or on reducing its synthesis of the receptors through the inhibition of glutamate carboxypeptidase II (GCPII), the enzyme that generates glutamate. In vivo studies have demonstrated that the pharmacological inhibition of GCPII can either prevent or treat the peripheral nerve changes in both BB/Wor and chemically induced diabetes in rats. In this study, we characterized the expression and distribution of glutamate transporters GLT1, GLAST, EAAC1 and of the enzyme GCPII in the peripheral nervous system of female Wistar rats. Immunoblotting results demonstrated that all glutamate transporters and GCPII are present in dorsal root ganglia (DRG) and the sciatic nerve. Immunofluorescence localization studies revealed that both DRG and sciatic nerves were immunopositive for all glutamate transporters and for GCPII. In DRG, satellite cells were positive for GLT1 and GCPII, whereas sensory neurons were positive for EAAC1. GLAST was localized in both neurons and satellite cells. In the sciatic nerve, GLT1 and GCPII were expressed in the cytoplasm of Schwann cells, whereas GLAST and EAAC1 stained the myelin layer. Our results give for the first time a complete characterization of the glutamate transporter system in the peripheral nervous system. Therefore, they are important both for understanding glutamatergic signalling in the PNS and for establishing new strategies to treat peripheral neuropathies.

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