Glutamate uptake is a main function of astrocytes to keep extracellular glutamate levels low and protect neurons against glutamate-induced excitotoxicity. On the other hand, astrocyte networks formed by gap junctions, which are consisted with connexins and connecting neighboring cells, are reported to play a critical role in maintaining the homeostasis in the brain. In the present study, we examined the effects of gap junction inhibitors on the glutamate uptake activity in cultured rat cortical astrocytes. At first, we confirmed the effects of gap junction inhibitors, 1-octanol and carbenoxolone, on cell–cell communication by the scrape-loading assay using a fluorescent dye Lucifer yellow. Both of 1-octanol and carbenoxolone treatments for 20 min in cultured astrocytes significantly suppressed the cell–cell communication assessed as the distance of dye-spreading. 1-octanol and carbenoxolone increased the glutamate uptake by astrocytes and glutamate aspartate transporter (GLAST) expression on the cell membrane. These results suggest that gap junction inhibitors increase the glutamate uptake activity through the increase of GLAST proteins located on the cell membrane. The regulation of gap junction in astrocytes might protect neurons against glutamate-induced excitotoxicity.
Financed by the National Centre for Research and Development under grant No. SP/I/1/77065/10 by the strategic scientific research and experimental development program:
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