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FEBS Lett. 2002 Oct 2;529(1):93-101.

Why glycine transporters have different stoichiometries.

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Laboratoire de Neurobiologie Moléculaire et Cellulaire, UMR8544, Ecole Normale Supérieure, 46 rue d'Ulm, 75005, Paris, France.


In the brain, neurons and glial cells compete for the uptake of the fast neurotransmitters, glutamate, GABA and glycine, through specific transporters. The relative contributions of glia and neurons to the neurotransmitter uptake depend on the kinetic properties, thermodynamic coupling and density of transporters but also on the intracellular metabolization or sequestration of the neurotransmitter. In the case of glycine, which is both an inhibitory transmitter and a neuromodulator of the excitatory glutamatergic transmission as a co-agonist of N-methyl D-aspartate receptors, the glial (GlyT1b) and neuronal (GlyT2a) transporters differ at least in three aspects: (i) stoichiometries, (ii) reverse uptake capabilities and (iii) pre-steady-state kinetics. A 3 Na(+)/1 Cl(-)/gly stoichiometry was established for GlyT2a on the basis of a 2 charges/glycine flux ratio and changes in the reversal potential of the transporter current as a function of the extracellular glycine, Na(+) and Cl(-) concentrations. Therefore, the driving force available for glycine uphill transport in neurons is about two orders of magnitude larger than for glial cells. In addition, GlyT2a shows a severe limitation for reverse uptake, which suggests an essential role of GlyT2a in maintaining a high intracellular glycine pool, thus facilitating the refilling of synaptic vesicles by the low affinity, low specificity vesicular transporter VGAT/VIAAT. In contrast, the 2 Na(+)/1 Cl(-)/gly stoichiometry and bi-directional transport properties of GlyT1b are appropriate for the control of the extracellular glycine concentration in a submicromolar range that can modulate N-methyl D-aspartate receptors effectively. Finally, analysis of the pre-steady-state kinetics of GlyT1b and GlyT2a revealed that at the resting potential neuronal transporters are preferentially oriented outward, ready to bind glycine, which suggests a kinetic advantage in the uptake contest.

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