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Neuroscience. 1992 Nov;51(2):295-310.

An [Na+ + K+]coupled L-glutamate transporter purified from rat brain is located in glial cell processes.

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Anatomical Institute, University of Oslo, Norway.


Polyclonal antibodies were generated against the major polypeptide (73,000 mol. wt) present in a highly purified preparation of the [Na+ + K+]coupled L-glutamate transporter from rat brain. These antibodies were able to selectively immunoprecipitate the 73,000 mol. wt polypeptide as well as most of the L-glutamate transport activity--as assayed upon reconstitution--from crude detergent extracts of rat brain membranes. The immunoreactivity in the various fractions obtained during the purification procedure [Danbolt et al. (1990) Biochemistry 29, 6734-6740] closely correlated with the L-glutamate transport activity. Immunoblotting of a crude sodium dodecyl sulphate brain extract, separated by two-dimensional isoelectric focusing-sodium dodecyl sulphate-polyacrylamide gel electrophoresis, showed that the antibodies recognized one 73,000 mol. wt protein species only. Deglycosylation of the protein gave a 10,000 reduction in molecular mass, but no reduction in immunoreactivity. These findings establish that the 73,000 mol. wt polypeptide represents the L-glutamate transporter or a subunit thereof. The antibodies also recognize a 73,000 mol. wt polypeptide and immunoprecipitate L-glutamate transport activity in extracts of brain plasma membranes from rabbit, pig, cow, cat and man. Using the antibodies, the immunocytochemical localization of the transporter was studied at the light and electron microscopic levels in rat central nervous system. In all regions examined (including cerebral cortex, caudatoputamen, corpus callosum, hippocampus, cerebellum, spinal cord) it was found to be located in glial cells rather than in neurons. In particular, fine astrocytic processes were strongly stained. Putative glutamatergic axon terminals appeared non-immunoreactive. The uptake of glutamate by such terminals (for which there is strong previous evidence) therefore may be due to a subtype of glutamate transporter different from the glial transporter demonstrated by us.

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