Role of glutamine and neuronal glutamate uptake in glutamate homeostasis and synthesis during vesicular release in cultured glutamatergic neurons

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Glutamate exists in a vesicular as well as a cytoplasmic pool and is metabolically closely related to the tricarboxylic acid (TCA) cycle. Glutamate released during neuronal activity is most likely to a large extent accumulated by astrocytes surrounding the synapse. A compensatory flux from astrocytes to neurons of suitable precursors is obligatory as neurons are incapable of performing a net synthesis of glutamate from glucose. Glutamine appears to play a major role in this context. Employing cultured cerebellar granule cells, as a model system for glutamatergic neurons, details of the biosynthetic machinery have been investigated during depolarizing conditions inducing vesicular release. [U-13C]Glucose and [U-13C]glutamine were used as labeled precursors for monitoring metabolic pathways by nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) spectroscopy and liquid chromatography–mass spectrometry (LC-MS) technologies. To characterize release mechanisms and influence of glutamate transporters on maintenance of homeostasis in the glutamatergic synapse, a quantification was performed by HPLC analysis of the amounts of glutamate and aspartate released in response to depolarization by potassium (55 mM) in the absence and presence of dl-threo-β-benzyloxyaspartate (TBOA) and in response to l-trans-pyrrolidine-2,4-dicarboxylate (t-2,4-PDC), a substrate for the glutamate transporter. Based on labeling patterns of glutamate the biosynthesis of the intracellular pool of glutamate from glutamine was found to involve the TCA cycle to a considerable extent (approximately 50%). Due to the mitochondrial localization of PAG this is unlikely only to reflect amino acid exchange via the cytosolic aspartate aminotransferase reaction. The involvement of the TCA cycle was significantly lower in the synthesis of the released vesicular pool of glutamate. However, in the presence of TBOA, inhibiting glutamate uptake, the difference between the intracellular and the vesicular pool with regard to the extent of involvement of the TCA cycle in glutamate synthesis from glutamine was eliminated. Surprisingly, the intracellular pool of glutamate was decreased after repetitive release from the vesicular pool in the presence of TBOA indicating that neuronal reuptake of released glutamate is involved in the maintenance of the neurotransmitter pool and that 0.5 mM glutamine exogenously supplied is inadequate to sustain this pool.

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