Glutamate, a neurotransmitter--and so much more. A synopsis of Wierzba III

Neurochem Int. 2006 May-Jun;48(6-7):416-25. doi: 10.1016/j.neuint.2005.12.021. Epub 2006 Feb 24.


It appears almost incredible that the first indications that glutamate excites brain tissue were obtained during the second half of the 20th century, that vesicles containing glutamate were demonstrated in glutamatergic neurons less than 25 years ago, and that glutamate was not accepted as the major excitatory transmitter until about the same time. During this span of time it has also become realized that glutamate is so much more than a conventional neurotransmitter: (1) astrocytes express vesicles accumulating glutamate by vesicular transporters akin to the vesicular glutamate transporters in glutamatergic neurons, and they release glutamate by exocytosis; (2) a series of metabolic processes in astrocytes (glutamate uptake, glutamine synthetase activity, glutamine release) are involved in neuronal reutilization of transmitter glutamate; (3) glutamine may also be utilized for synthesis of GABA, the major inhibitory transmitter; (4) de novo synthesis of glutamate accounts for 20% of cerebral glucose metabolism, all of which initially occurs in astrocytes, and at steady state a corresponding amount of glutamate is oxidatively degraded, mainly or exclusively in astrocytes; (5) tissue contents of glutamate/glutamine increase during enhanced glutamatergic activity, i.e., astrocytic de novo synthesis exceeds astrocytic metabolic degradation of glutamate.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Amino Acid Transport System X-AG / metabolism
  • Animals
  • Biological Transport
  • Brain / metabolism
  • GABA Plasma Membrane Transport Proteins / metabolism
  • Glutamic Acid / metabolism
  • Glutamic Acid / physiology*
  • Glutaminase / metabolism
  • Glutamine / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Neurotransmitter Agents / metabolism
  • Neurotransmitter Agents / physiology*
  • Oxidation-Reduction
  • Vesicular Transport Proteins / metabolism
  • gamma-Aminobutyric Acid / metabolism


  • Amino Acid Transport System X-AG
  • GABA Plasma Membrane Transport Proteins
  • Neurotransmitter Agents
  • Vesicular Transport Proteins
  • Glutamine
  • Glutamic Acid
  • gamma-Aminobutyric Acid
  • Glutaminase