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Exp Brain Res. 2008 Feb;184(4):479-92. Epub 2007 Sep 13.

Vesicular release of glutamate from hippocampal neurons in culture: an immunocytochemical assay.

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Department of Biomedicine, University of Bergen, Jonas Lies vei 91, 5009 Bergen, Norway.


Glutamate, the main excitatory neurotransmitter in the brain, may cause excitotoxic damage through excessive release during a number of pathological conditions. We have developed an immunocytochemical assay to investigate the mechanisms and regulation of glutamate release from intact, cultured neurons. Our results indicate that cultured hippocampal neurons have a large surplus of glutamate available for release upon chemically induced depolarization. Long incubations with high K(+)-concentrations, and induction of repetitive action potentials with the K(+)-channel blocker 4-aminopyridine (4-AP), caused a significant reduction in glutamate labeling in a subset of boutons, demonstrating that transmitter release exceeded the capacity for replenishment. The number of boutons where release exceeded replenishment increased continuously with time of stimulation. This depletion was Ca(2+)-dependent and sensitive to bafilomycin A1 (baf), indicating that it was dominated by vesicular release mechanisms. The depletion of glutamate from cell bodies and dendrites was also Ca(2+)-dependent. Thus, under the present conditions, cytosolic glutamate is taken up in vesicles prior to release, and the main escape route for the amino acid is through vesicular exocytosis. Depolarization with lower concentrations of K(+) caused sustainable release of glutamate, i.e., without full depletion.

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