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Nature. 1994 Jun 30;369(6483):744-7.

Glutamate-mediated astrocyte-neuron signalling.

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Department of Zoology and Genetics, Iowa State University, Ames 50011.


Neurotransmitter released from neurons is known to signal to neighbouring neurons and glia. Here we demonstrate an additional signalling pathway in which glutamate is released from astrocytes and causes an NMDA (N-methyl-D-aspartate) receptor-mediated increase in neuronal calcium. Internal calcium was elevated and glutamate release stimulated by application of the neuroligand bradykinin to cultured astrocytes. Elevation of astrocyte internal calcium was also sufficient to induce glutamate release. To determine whether this released glutamate signals to neurons, we studied astrocyte-neuron co-cultures. Bradykinin significantly increased calcium levels in neurons co-cultured with astrocytes, but not in solitary neurons. The glutamate receptor antagonists D-2-amino-5-phosphonopentanoic acid and D-glutamylglycine prevented bradykinin-induced neuronal calcium elevation. When single astrocytes were directly stimulated to increase internal calcium and release glutamate, calcium levels of adjacent neurons were increased; this increase could be blocked by D-glutamylglycine. Thus, astrocytes regulate neuronal calcium levels through the calcium-dependent release of glutamate.

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