Origins of the extracellular glutamate released during total metabolic blockade in the immature retina

G. D. Zeevalk, N. Davis, A. G. Hyndman, W. J. Nicklas

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Previous studies have shown that complete blockade of metabolism in embryonic chick retina causes a time-dependent increase n the release of glutamate into the extracellular space. The present study examined the cellular source of this glutamate, i.e., neuronal and/or glial. Pure cultures of retinal neurons or gila were labeled for 10 min at 37°C with [3H]acetate. Retinal gila, but not retinal neurons, were found to selectively and preferentially metabolize acetate, thus producing 3H- labeled amino acids in the glial compartment. This finding provides direct evidence to substantiate findings from several other laboratories that have indirectly determined the preferential metabolism of acetate by glia by using mixed neuronal/glial populations. To study the cellular source of glutamate released during total metabolic blockade, whole retina were prelabeled with [3H]acetate plus [U-14C]glucose (to label the neuronal compartment). Total metabolic blockade was instituted with a combination of iodoacetate (IOA) plus KCN, and the release of glutamate into the medium was followed at 5, 15, and 30 min. During total energy blockade, net extracellular glutamate was not elevated at 5 min [0.17 ± 0.02 vs. 0.12 ± 0.01 μM for treated vs. control retina (means ± SEM), respectively], but was increased significantly at 15 (1.2 ± 0.26 μM) and 30 min (2.6 ± 0.22 μM). Total [3H]glutamate in the medium during IOA/KCN treatment was unchanged at 5 min, but was increased 1.5- and threefold above basal levels at 15 and 30 min, respectively. During the time when extracellular glutamate increased, the specific activity of [3H]glutamate remained fairly constant, 731 ± 134 and 517 ± 82 dpm/nmol (means ± SEM) at 15 and 30 min, respectively. In contrast, 14C-labeled glutamate in the medium did not increase during IOA/KCN treatment and paralleled basal levels. Thus, the specific activity of 14C-labeled extracellular glutamate decreased from 309 ± 87 dpm/nmol at 15 min to 42 ± 8 dpm/nmol at 30 min. Prior loading of the tissue with 0.5 mM trans- pyrrolidine-2,4-dicarboxylate (tPDC), a glutamate transport inhibitor, blocked 57% of the glutamate released at 30 min of IOA/KCN exposure, suggesting that reversal of an Na+-dependent glutamate transporter was a key contributor to the appearance of extracellular glutamate during energy deprivation. The increase in extracellular [3H]glutamate, constancy of the specific activity of extracellular [3H]glutamate, decrease in the specific activity of extracellular [14C] glutamate, and attenuation of release by prior loading with t-PDC indicate that glial pools of glutamate released via reversal of the transporter contribute significantly to the rise in extracellular glutamate after metabolic inhibition in this preparation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2373-2381
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of neurochemistry
Issue number6
StatePublished - Dec 1998

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Biochemistry
  • Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience


  • Excitotoxicity
  • Glia
  • Glutamate release
  • Ischemia
  • Retina


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