Astrocyte and Neuron Intone Through Glutamate

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The unexpected finding of astrocytes to release glutamate as gliotransmitter challenges the traditional concepts on astrocyte being “passive” in CNS communications. Glutamate is the major excitatory transmitter in transferring information between neurons, but is now also known to activate astrocyte through transporters and receptors. Together with the sensitive swelling response, astrocytes could respond directly to glutamate and neuronal activity. Other new functions of astrocytes include modulation of synaptic plasticity and cerebral blood flow (CBF). The classic glutamate deplenishment through glutamine synthesis and CO2 production does not account for the total glutamate internalized into astrocytes. This leads us to speculate there are many hidden functions of glutamate in neurons and astrocytes waiting to be discovered. In this review, we attempted to reexamine some of these new and older functions of glutamate and to reevaluate the roles of glutamate intoning these two cell types.

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