Excitatory amino acid transporters: a family in flux

Annu Rev Pharmacol Toxicol. 1999;39:431-56. doi: 10.1146/annurev.pharmtox.39.1.431.


As the most predominant excitatory neurotransmitter, glutamate has the potential to influence the function of most neuronal circuits in the central nervous system. To limit receptor activation during signaling and prevent the overstimulation of glutamate receptors that can trigger excitotoxic mechanisms and cell death, extracellular concentrations of excitatory amino acids are tightly controlled by transport systems on both neurons and glial cells. L-Glutamate is a potent neurotoxin, and the inadequate clearance of excitatory amino acids may contribute to the neurodegeneration seen in a variety of conditions, including epilepsy, ischemia, and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis. To establish the contributions of carrier systems to the etiology of neurological disorders, and to consider their potential utility as therapeutic targets, a detailed understanding of transporter function and pharmacology is required. This review summarizes current knowledge of the structural and functional diversity of excitatory amino acid transporters and explores how they might serve as targets for drug design.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Amino Acid Transport Systems
  • Animals
  • Biological Transport / physiology
  • Carrier Proteins / genetics
  • Carrier Proteins / metabolism*
  • Excitatory Amino Acids / metabolism*
  • Glutamic Acid / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Nervous System Diseases / drug therapy
  • Nervous System Diseases / metabolism
  • Signal Transduction / physiology


  • Amino Acid Transport Systems
  • Carrier Proteins
  • Excitatory Amino Acids
  • Glutamic Acid