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J Neurophysiol. 2009 Nov;102(5):2880-8. doi: 10.1152/jn.00476.2009. Epub 2009 Sep 9.

Maintenance of thalamic epileptiform activity depends on the astrocytic glutamate-glutamine cycle.

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Department of Neurology and Neurological Sciences, Stanford University, Stanford, California 94305-5122, USA.


The generation of prolonged neuronal activity depends on the maintenance of synaptic neurotransmitter pools. The astrocytic glutamate-glutamine cycle is a major mechanism for recycling the neurotransmitters GABA and glutamate. Here we tested the effect of disrupting the glutamate-glutamine cycle on two types of neuronal activity patterns in the thalamus: sleep-related spindles and epileptiform oscillations. In recording conditions believed to induce glutamine scarcity, epileptiform oscillations showed a progressive reduction in duration that was partially reversible by the application of exogenous glutamine (300 muM). Blocking uptake of glutamine into neurons with alpha-(methylamino) isobutyric acid (5 mM) caused a similar reduction in oscillation duration, as did blocking neuronal GABA synthesis with 3-mercaptoproprionic acid (10 muM). However, comparable manipulations did not affect sleep spindles. Together, these results support a crucial role for the glutamate-glutamine cycle in providing the neurotransmitters necessary for the generation of epileptiform activity and suggest potential therapeutic approaches that selectively reduce seizure activity but maintain normal neuronal activity.

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