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J Neurosci. 2019 May 15;39(20):3970-3982. doi: 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.2865-18.2019. Epub 2019 Feb 28.

Single Synapse Indicators of Impaired Glutamate Clearance Derived from Fast iGlu u Imaging of Cortical Afferents in the Striatum of Normal and Huntington (Q175) Mice.

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Cluster of Excellence Neurocure, Charité-Universitätsmedizin Berlin, 10117 Berlin, Germany.
Molecular and Clinical Sciences Research Institute, St. George's, University of London, London SW17 0RE, United Kingdom, and.
Department of Cellular and Molecular Physiology, Institute of Translational Medicine, University of Liverpool, Liverpool L69 3BX, United Kingdom.
Cluster of Excellence Neurocure, Charité-Universitätsmedizin Berlin, 10117 Berlin, Germany,


Changes in the balance between glutamate (Glu) release and uptake may stimulate synaptic reorganization and even synapse loss. In the case of neurodegeneration, a mismatch between astroglial Glu uptake and presynaptic Glu release could be detected if both parameters were assessed independently and at a single-synapse level. This has now become possible due to a new imaging assay with the genetically encoded ultrafast Glu sensor iGlu u We report findings from individual corticostriatal synapses in acute slices prepared from mice of either sex that were >1 year of age. Contrasting patterns of short-term plasticity and a size criterion identified two classes of terminals, presumably corresponding to the previously defined IT (intratelencephalic) and PT (pyramidal tract) synapses. The latter exhibited a higher degree of frequency potentiation/residual Glu accumulation and were selected for our first iGlu u single-synapse study in Q175 mice, a model of Huntington's disease (HD). In HD mice, the decay time constant of the perisynaptic Glu concentration (TauD), as an indicator of uptake, and the peak iGlu u amplitude, as an indicator of release, were prolonged and reduced, respectively. Treatment of WT preparations with the astrocytic Glu uptake blocker TFB-TBOA (100 nm) mimicked the TauD changes in homozygotes. Considering the largest TauD values encountered in WT, ∼40% of PT synapses tested in Q175 heterozygotes can be classified as dysfunctional. Moreover, HD but not WT synapses exhibited a positive correlation between TauD and the peak amplitude of iGlu u Finally, EAAT2 (excitatory amino acid transport protein 2) immunoreactivity was reduced next to corticostriatal terminals. Thus, astrocytic Glu transport remains a promising target for therapeutic intervention.SIGNIFICANCE STATEMENT Alterations in astrocytic Glu uptake can play a role in synaptic plasticity and neurodegeneration. Until now, the sensitivity of synaptic responses to pharmacological transport block and the resulting activation of NMDA receptors were regarded as reliable evidence for a mismatch between synaptic uptake and release. But the latter parameters are interdependent. Using a new genetically encoded sensor to monitor extracellular glutamate concentration ([Glu]) at individual corticostriatal synapses, we can now quantify the time constant of perisynaptic [Glu] decay (as an indicator of uptake) and the maximal [Glu] elevation next to the active zone (as an indicator of Glu release). The results provide a positive answer to the hitherto unresolved question of whether neurodegeneration (e.g., Huntington's disease) associates with a glutamate uptake deficit at tripartite excitatory synapses.


EAAT2; Glu imaging; astrocytes; glutamate clearance; synapse pathology; tripartite synapse

[Available on 2019-11-15]

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