Glial Glutamate Transporters and Maturation of the Mouse Somatosensory Cortex

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In the adult nervous system, glutamatergic neurotransmission is tightly controlled by neuron–glia interactions through glial glutamate reuptake by the specific transporters GLT-1 and GLAST. Here, we have explored the role of these transporters in the structural and functional maturation of the somatosensory cortex of the mouse. We provide evidence that GLT-1 and GLAST are early and selectively expressed in barrels from P5 to P10. Confocal and electron microscopy confirm that the expression is restricted to the astroglial membrane. By P12, and despite an increased global expression as observed by immunoblotting, the barrel pattern of GLAST and GLT-1 staining is no longer evident. In P10 GLT-1 −/− and GLAST −/− mice, the cytoarchitectural segregation of the barrels is preserved. However, at P9–10, the functional response to whisker stimulation, measured by deoxyglucose uptake, is markedly decreased in GLT-1 −/− and GLAST −/− mice. The role of GLAST is transient since the metabolic response is already restored at P11–12 in GLAST −/− mice and remains unchanged in adulthood. However, deletion of GLT-1 seems to impair the functional metabolic response until adulthood. Our data suggest that astrocyte–neuron interactions via the glial glutamate transporters are involved in the functional maturation of the whisker representation in the somatosensory cortex.

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