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Brain Res. 1999 Jul 3;833(2):150-60.

Effects of handling on extracellular levels of glutamate and other amino acids in various areas of the brain measured by microdialysis.

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Department of Medicinal Chemistry, Ant. Deusinglaan 1, 9713 AV, Groningen, Netherlands.


Upon a physiological and pharmacological challenge, the responsiveness of extracellular glutamate levels in the prefrontal cortex, ventral tegmental area and locus coeruleus were studied using microdialysis. A 10-min handling period was used as a mild stressful stimulus. In all three brain areas, handling induced an immediate and short-lasting increase in glutamate levels, but the responses were highly variable. Only in the ventral tegmental area and the locus coeruleus, but not in the prefrontal cortex, the increases were significantly different from basal values. In rats with relatively low basal glutamate levels, both in the ventral tegmental area and locus coeruleus, handling had a more pronounced effect on glutamate levels than in rats with high basal levels, although in some rats with relatively low basal levels of glutamate, handling had hardly any effect. Potassium stimulation also induced variable responses in all three brain areas. Again, relatively low basal glutamate levels were more responsive to the stimulation than higher basal values, although there appeared to be a lower limit. These data suggest that relatively high basal levels contain sources of glutamate that mask the neuronal pool of glutamate and are therefore less responsive to physiological or pharmacological stimulation. However, this interpretation was questioned by the findings that basal levels and handling-induced increases in glutamate levels were found to be (partly) TTX-independent. As carrier-mediated release as a possible non-exocytotic release mechanism has only been described in vivo under pathological conditions, it seems plausible to ascribe TTX-independent glutamate increases to aspecific, non-neuronal processes. This interpretation was further supported by the observation that in all three brain areas, other amino acids, i.e., aspartate, taurine, glutamine, serine, alanine and glycine also increased upon handling in a very similar way as glutamate did. Thus, these results question a direct correlation between stimulated extracellular glutamate levels induced by handling and measured by microdialysis and glutamatergic neurotransmission.

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