1. Glutamate transporters (also known as excitatory amino acid transporters or EAAT) are solely responsible for the removal of the excitatory neurotransmitter l-glutamate (Glu) from the extracellular space and, thus, permit normal transmission, as well as preventing cell death due to the excessive activation of Glu receptors. 2. Five subtypes of glutamate transporter (EAAT1-5) exist, possessing distinct pharmacology, cellular localization and modulatory mechanisms. 3. Experimental inhibition of EAAT activity in vitro and in vivo results in increased extracellular concentrations of Glu and in neuronal death via excitotoxicity, highlighting the importance of EAAT in normal excitatory neurotransmission. 4. Dysfunction of EAAT may contribute to the pathology of both acute neuronal injury and chronic neurodegenerative conditions, so correction of EAAT function under these conditions may provide a valuable therapeutic strategy. 5. The present review describes basic pharmacological studies that allow new insights into EAAT function and suggest possible strategies for the therapeutic modulation of EAAT.