Astroglia and glutamate in physiology and pathology: aspects on glutamate transport, glutamate-induced cell swelling and gap-junction communication Academic Article uri icon


  • Astroglia have the capacity to monitor extracellular glutamate (Glu) and maintain it at low levels, metabolize Glu, or release it back into the extracellular space. Glu can induce an increase in astroglial cell volume with a resulting decrease of the extracellular space, and thereby alter the concentration of extracellular substances. Many lines of evidence show that K(+) can be buffered within the astroglial gap-junction-coupled network, and recent results show that gap junctions are permeable for Glu. All these events occur dynamically: the astroglial network has the capacity to interfere actively with neurotransmission, thereby contributing to a high signal-to-noise ratio for the Glu transmission. High-quality neuronal messages during normal physiology can then be maintained. With the same mechanisms, astroglia might exert a neuroprotective function in situations of moderately increased extracellular Glu concentrations, i.e., corresponding to conditions of pathological hyper-excitability, or corresponding to early stages of an acute brain injury. If the astroglial functions are failing, neuronal dysfunction can be reinforced.

publication date

  • August 1, 2000