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Neuroscience. 2008 Apr 22;153(1):329-37. doi: 10.1016/j.neuroscience.2008.02.004. Epub 2008 Feb 15.

Up-regulation of GLT1 expression increases glutamate uptake and attenuates the Huntington's disease phenotype in the R6/2 mouse.

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Program in Neuroscience, Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences, 1101 East 10th Street, Bloomington, IN 47405, USA.


The striatum, which processes cortical information for behavioral output, is a key target of Huntington's disease (HD), an autosomal dominant condition characterized by cognitive decline and progressive loss of motor control. Increasing evidence implicates deficient glutamate uptake caused by a down-regulation of GLT1, the primary astroglial glutamate transporter. To test this hypothesis, we administered ceftriaxone, a beta-lactam antibiotic known to elevate GLT1 expression (200 mg/kg, i.p., for 5 days), to symptomatic R6/2 mice, a widely studied transgenic model of HD. Relative to vehicle, ceftriaxone attenuated several HD behavioral signs: paw clasping and twitching were reduced, while motor flexibility, as measured in a plus maze, and open-field climbing were increased. Assessment of GLT1 expression in striatum confirmed a ceftriaxone-induced increase relative to vehicle. To determine if the change in behavior and GLT1 expression represented a change in striatal glutamate handling, separate groups of behaving mice were evaluated with no-net-flux microdialysis. Vehicle treatment revealed a glutamate uptake deficit in R6/2 mice relative to wild-type controls that was reversed by ceftriaxone. Vehicle-treated animals, however, did not differ in GLT1 expression, suggesting that the glutamate uptake deficit in R6/2 mice reflects dysfunctional rather than missing GLT1. Our results indicate that impaired glutamate uptake is a major factor underlying HD pathophysiology and symptomology. The glutamate uptake deficit, moreover, is present in symptomatic HD mice and reversal of this deficit by up-regulating the functional expression of GLT1 with ceftriaxone attenuates the HD phenotype.

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