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J Neurosci Res. 2003 Mar 15;71(6):811-8.

Influence of serum-free medium on the expression of glutamate transporters and the susceptibility to glutamate toxicity in cultured cortical neurons.

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Departamento de Neurociencias, Instituto de Fisiología Celular, Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, México D.F., México.


The presence of glia and glial glutamate transporters seems to modify glutamate-mediated toxicity in neuronal cultures. In this work we cultured cortical cells in serum-containing medium and in a serum-free medium (Neurobasal medium + B27 supplement) and studied the expression of the glutamate transporters GLAST, GLT, and EAAC by immunocytochemistry and RT-PCR. The proportion of glial cells was below 10% in the Neurobasal medium and 46% in the serum-containing medium. Semiquantitative evaluation of the mRNA for the glutamate transporters showed similar amounts in cells grown in serum-free and serum-containing media. We detected immunoreactivity for the three transporters in both media, but EAAC was coexpressed with the neuronal marker MAP2, whereas GLAST and GLT predominated in nonneuronal cells. When the cultures were treated with glutamate for 15 min, the cultures in serum-containing medium showed a clear concentration-dependent neuronal death, whereas cells primed in this medium and switched to Neurobasal medium, as well as cells grown only in the latter, were less sensitive to glutamate concentrations up to 1 mM. A similar difference in the sensitivity to excitotoxicity was observed when the glutamate uptake inhibitor L-trans-2,4-pyrrolidine-dicarboxylate was applied during 6 hr, although the accumulation of extracellular glutamate was similar in the two media. We conclude that glutamate transporters with the culture conditions studied are sensitive to glutamate uptake inhibition and that Neurobasal/B27 medium protects cells against excitotoxicity.

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