Neurochemistry international

Role of glutamate transporters in redox homeostasis of the brain.

PMID 24418113


Redox homeostasis is especially important in the brain where high oxygen consumption produces an abundance of harmful oxidative by-products. Glutathione (GSH) is a tripeptide non-protein thiol. It is the central nervous system's most abundant antioxidant and the master controller of brain redox homeostasis. The glutamate transporters, System xc(-) (SXC) and the Excitatory Amino Acid Transporters (EAAT), play important, synergistic roles in the synthesis of GSH. In glial cells, SXC mediates the uptake of cystine, which after intracellular reduction to cysteine, reacts with glutamate during the rate-limiting step of GSH synthesis. EAAT3 mediates direct cysteine uptake for neuronal GSH synthesis. SXC and EAAT work in concert in glial cells to provide two intracellular substrates for GSH synthesis, cystine and glutamate. Their cyclical basal function also prevents a buildup of extracellular glutamate, which SXC releases extracellularly in exchange for cystine uptake. Maintaining extracellular glutamate homeostasis is critical to prevent neuronal toxicity, as well as glutamate-mediated SXC inhibition, which could lead to a depletion of intracellular GSH and loss of cellular redox control. Many neurological diseases show evidence of GSH dysfunction, and increased GSH has been widely associated with chemotherapy and radiotherapy resistance of gliomas. We present evidence suggesting that gliomas expressing elevated levels of SXC are more reliant on GSH for growth and survival. They have an increased inherent radiation resistance, however, inhibition of SXC can increase tumor sensitivity at low radiation doses. GSH depletion through SXC inhibition may be a viable mechanism to enhance current glioma treatment strategies and make tumors more sensitive to radiation and chemotherapy protocols.

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