Astrocytes are the most abundant non-neuronal glial cells in the brain. Once relegated to a mere supportive role for neurons, contemporary dogmas ascribe multiple active roles for these cells in central nervous system (CNS) function, including maintenance of optimal glutamate levels in synapses. Regulation of glutamate levels in the synaptic cleft is crucial for preventing excitotoxic neuronal injury. Glutamate levels are regulated predominantly by two astrocytic glutamate transporters, glutamate transporter 1 (GLT-1) and glutamate aspartate transporter (GLAST). Indeed, the dysregulation of these transporters has been linked to several neurodegenerative diseases such as amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), Alzheimer's disease (AD) and Parkinson's disease (PD), as well as manganism, which is caused by overexposure to the trace metal, manganese (Mn). Although Mn is an essential trace element, its excessive accumulation in the brain as a result of chronic occupational or environmental exposures induces a neurological disorder referred to as manganism, which shares common pathological features with Parkinsonism. Mn decreases the expression and function of both GLAST and GLT-1. Astrocytes are commonly targeted by Mn, and thus reduction in astrocytic glutamate transporter function represents a critical mechanism of Mn-induced neurotoxicity. In this review, we will discuss the role of astrocytic glutamate transporters in neurodegenerative diseases and Mn-induced neurotoxicity.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience
- Cell Biology