Pharmacological characterization of the glutamate receptor in cultured astrocytes

K. H. Backus, H. Kettenmann, Melitta Camartin

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Cultured astrocytes from neonatal rat cerebral hemispheres are depolarized by the excitatory neurotransmitter glutamate. In this study we have used selective agonists of different neuronal glutamate receptor subtypes, namely, the N‐methyl‐D‐aspartate (NMDA), kainate, and quisqualate type, to characterize pharmacologically the glutamate receptor in astrocytes. The agonists of the neuronal quisqualate receptor, α‐amino‐3‐hydroxy‐5‐methyl‐4‐isoxazole‐4‐propionic acid (AMPA) and quisqualate, depolarized the membrane. Kainate, an agonist of the neuronal kainate receptor, depolarized astrocytes more effectively than quisqualate. Combined application of kainate and quisqualate depolarized astrocytes to a level which was intermediate to that evoked by quisqualate and kainate individually. Agonists activating the neuronal NMDA receptor, namely NMDA and quinolinate, were ineffective. Application of NMDA did not alter the membrane potential even in combination with glycine or in Mg2+‐free solution, conditions under which neuronal NMDA receptor activation is facilitated. The nonselective agonists L‐cysteate, L‐homocysteate, and β‐N‐oxalylamino‐L‐alanine (BOAA) mimicked the effect of glutamate. Dihydrokainate, a blocker of glutamate uptake, did not, and several antagonists of neuronal glutamate receptors only slightly affect the glutamate response. These findings suggest that astrocytes express one type of glutamate receptor which is activated by both kainate and quisqualate, lending further support to the notion that cultured astrocytes express excitatory amino acid receptors which have some pharmacological similarities to their neuronal counterparts.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)274-282
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Neuroscience Research
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jan 1 1989
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience

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