Changing patterns of spatial buffering of glutamate in developing rat retinae are mediated by the Müller cell glutamate transporter GLAST

Cell Tissue Res. 1999 Jul;297(1):57-66. doi: 10.1007/s004410051333.


The patterns of expression of the glutamate transporter GLAST were compared with the patterns of uptake of exogenous D-aspartate, which is a substrate for all glutamate transporters. At postnatal day 0, fine radial processes and end feet of presumptive Müller cells were weakly immunoreactive for GLAST. At postnatal day 3, intense labelling was associated with astrocytes enveloping newly formed blood vessels on the vitread surface of the retina. Between postnatal days 7 and 10, there was a rapid increase in the intensity of labelling in the Müller cells but clear stratification of GLAST-immunoreactive processes in the inner plexiform layer was not observed until postnatal day 14. By comparison, D-aspartate uptake was initially associated with a wide variety of cellular elements including most neuroblasts, presumptive Müller cells, and astrocytes associated with blood vessels but was absent from the somata of many neurons in the ganglion cell layer and amacrine cell layer. There was a gradual contraction in the numbers of cells that were able to take up D-aspartate, such that, by adulthood, uptake was restricted mainly to Müller cells and astrocytes. We conclude that, during early retinal development, the low levels of GLAST expression by Müller cells permit D-aspartate, and by inference, glutamate, to permeate the retina freely, thus allowing uptake by other glutamate transporters on other cell types. As the retina matures, increased expression of GLAST by Müller cells restricts the access of D-aspartate to other cellular compartments in the retina. This changing pattern of spatial buffering of glutamate by GLAST probably has significant implications regarding our understanding of the role of glutamate during processes such as retinal synaptogenesis.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • ATP-Binding Cassette Transporters / metabolism*
  • Aging
  • Amino Acid Transport System X-AG
  • Animals
  • Animals, Newborn
  • Aspartic Acid / metabolism*
  • Astrocytes / cytology*
  • Astrocytes / metabolism
  • Biological Transport
  • Glutamic Acid / metabolism*
  • Photoreceptor Cells, Vertebrate / cytology
  • Photoreceptor Cells, Vertebrate / metabolism
  • Photoreceptor Cells, Vertebrate / physiology
  • Rats
  • Rats, Wistar
  • Retina / cytology*
  • Retina / growth & development*
  • Retina / metabolism


  • ATP-Binding Cassette Transporters
  • Amino Acid Transport System X-AG
  • Aspartic Acid
  • Glutamic Acid