, Volume 447, Issue 5, pp 469-479
Date: 07 Oct 2003

The glutamate/neutral amino acid transporter family SLC1: molecular, physiological and pharmacological aspects

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Abstract

The solute carrier family 1 (SLC1) includes five high-affinity glutamate transporters, EAAC1, GLT-1, GLAST, EAAT4 and EAAT5 (SLC1A1, SLC1A2, SLC1A3, SLC1A6, and SLC1A7, respectively) as well as the two neutral amino acid transporters, ASCT1 and ASCT2 (SLC1A4 and ALC1A5, respectively). Although each of these transporters have similar predicted structures, they exhibit distinct functional properties which are variations of a common transport mechanism. The high-affinity glutamate transporters mediate transport of l-Glu, l-Asp and d-Asp, accompanied by the cotransport of 3 Na+ and 1 H+, and the countertransport of 1 K+, whereas ASC transporters mediate Na+-dependent exchange of small neutral amino acids such as Ala, Ser, Cys and Thr. The unique coupling of the glutamate transporters allows uphill transport of glutamate into cells against a concentration gradient. This feature plays a crucial role in protecting neurons against glutamate excitotoxicity in the central nervous system. During pathological conditions, such as brain ischemia (e.g. after a stroke), however, glutamate exit can occur due to “reversed glutamate transport”, which is caused by a reversal of the electrochemical gradients of the coupling ions. Selective inhibition of the neuronal glutamate transporter EAAC1 (SLC1A1) may be of therapeutic interest to block glutamate release from neurons during ischemia. On the other hand, upregulation of the glial glutamate transporter GLT1 (SLC1A2) may help protect motor neurons in patients with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), since loss of function of GLT1 has been associated with the pathogenesis of certain forms of ALS.