The neuronal excitatory amino acid transporter EAAC1/EAAT3: does it represent a major actor at the brain excitatory synapse?

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EAAC1/EAAT3 is a transporter of glutamate (Glu) present at the post-synaptic neuronal element, in opposition to the two other main transporters, GLAST/EAAT1 and GLT1/EAAT2, expressed at the excitatory amino acid (EAA) synapse by surrounding astrocytes. Although, in the adult, EAAC1/EAAT3 exhibits a rather low expression level and is considered to make a minor contribution to Glu removal from the synapse, its early expression during brain development, before the astrocytes are functional, suggests that such a neuronal transporter is involved in the developmental effects of EAA and, possibly, in the biosynthesis and trophic role of GABA, which is excitatory in nature in different brain regions during the earlier stages of brain development. This neuronal Glu transporter is considered to have a dual action as it is apparently involved in the neuronal uptake of cysteine, which acts as a key substrate for the synthesis of glutathione, a major anti-oxidant, because the neurones do not express the Xc− transport system in the mature brain. Interestingly, EAAC1/EAAT3 activity/expression was shown to be highly regulated by neuronal activity as well as by intracellular signalling pathways involving primarily α protein kinase C (αPKC) and phosphatidylinositol-3-kinase (PI3K). Such regulatory processes could act either at the post-traductional level or at the transcriptional level. It is worth noting that EAAC1/EAAT3 exhibits specificity, compared with other EAA transporters, because it is present mainly in the intracellular compartment and only for about 20% at the plasma membrane. Variations in neuronal Glu uptake were shown to be associated with rapid changes in the trafficking of the transporter protein altering the membranar location of the transporter. More recent data show that astrocyte-secreted factors such as cholesterol could also influence rapid changes in the location of EAAC1/EAAT3 between the plasma membrane and the cytoplasmic compartment. Such a highly regulated process of EAAC1/EAAT3 activity/expression may have implications in the physiopathology of major diseases affecting EAA brain signalling, which is further supported by data obtained in animal models of hypoxia–anoxia, for example.

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