Cultured astrocytes derived from corpus callosum or cortical grey matter show distinct glutamate handling properties

J Neurochem. 2009 Mar;108(6):1442-52. doi: 10.1111/j.1471-4159.2009.05889.x. Epub 2009 Feb 12.


While the astrocytic control of extracellular glutamate concentration at synaptic contacts is well characterized, little is known regarding the clearance of glutamate along axon tracts, even though local excitotoxic damage has been reported. Therefore, we have compared glutamate handling in astrocyte cultures derived from white matter (corpus callosum) and grey matter tissues (cortical structures). These populations of astrocytes showed clearly distinct phenotypes, adopting stellate or protoplasmic morphologies respectively. In addition, white matter astrocytes showed high densities of the intermediate filament proteins glial fibrillary acidic protein, vimentin and nestin. The glutamate-aspartate transporter and glutamate transporter-1, as well as glutamine synthetase, were found to be expressed at higher levels in white matter compared with grey matter astrocytes. Consistent with this aspartate uptake capacity was three to fourfold higher in white matter cells, and the use of specific inhibitors revealed a substantial activity of glutamate transporter-1, contrasting with grey matter cells where this transporter appeared poorly functional. In addition, expression of type 5 metabotropic glutamate receptors was considerably higher in white matter astrocytes where the agonist (S)-3,5-dihydroxyphenylglycine triggered a large release of intracellular calcium. Differences in these astrocyte cultures were also observed when exposed to experimental conditions that trigger glial activation. This study highlights typical features of cultured astrocytes derived from white matter tissues, which appear constitutively adapted to handle excitotoxic insults. Moreover, the expression and activity of the astroglial components involved in the control of glutamatergic transmission are reinforced when these cells are maintained under conditions mimicking a gliotic environment.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Actins / metabolism
  • Amino Acid Transport Systems / metabolism
  • Analysis of Variance
  • Animals
  • Animals, Newborn
  • Aspartic Acid / metabolism
  • Astrocytes / drug effects*
  • Calcium / metabolism
  • Cell Size
  • Cells, Cultured
  • Cerebral Cortex / cytology*
  • Corpus Callosum / cytology*
  • Cricetinae
  • Cricetulus
  • Enzyme Inhibitors / pharmacology
  • Glial Fibrillary Acidic Protein / metabolism
  • Glutamic Acid / metabolism*
  • Intermediate Filament Proteins / metabolism
  • Nerve Tissue Proteins / metabolism
  • Nestin
  • Rats
  • Receptor, Metabotropic Glutamate 5
  • Receptors, Metabotropic Glutamate / deficiency
  • Transfection
  • Vimentin / metabolism


  • Actins
  • Amino Acid Transport Systems
  • Enzyme Inhibitors
  • Glial Fibrillary Acidic Protein
  • Intermediate Filament Proteins
  • Nerve Tissue Proteins
  • Nes protein, rat
  • Nestin
  • Receptor, Metabotropic Glutamate 5
  • Receptors, Metabotropic Glutamate
  • Vimentin
  • Aspartic Acid
  • Glutamic Acid
  • Calcium