Non-vesicular release of glutamate from glial cells by reversed electrogenic glutamate uptake

Nature. 1990 Nov 29;348(6300):443-6. doi: 10.1038/348443a0.


Glutamate uptake into nerve and glial cells usually functions to keep the extracellular glutamate concentration low in the central nervous system. But one component of glutamate release from neurons is calcium-independent, suggesting a non-vesicular release that may be due to a reversal of glutamate uptake. The activity of the electrogenic glutamate uptake carrier can be monitored by measuring the membrane current it produces, and uptake is activated by intracellular potassium ions. Here we report that raising the potassium concentration around glial cells evokes an outward current component produced by reversed glutamate uptake. This current is activated by intracellular glutamate and sodium, inhibited by extracellular glutamate and sodium, and increased by membrane depolarization. These results demonstrate a non-vesicular mechanism for the release of glutamate from glial cells and neurons. This mechanism may contribute to the neurotoxic rise in extracellular glutamate concentration during brain anoxia.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Biological Transport, Active
  • Brain Diseases / metabolism
  • Extracellular Space / metabolism
  • Glutamates / metabolism*
  • Hypoxia / metabolism
  • In Vitro Techniques
  • Kainic Acid / pharmacology
  • Membrane Potentials
  • N-Methylaspartate / pharmacology
  • Neuroglia / physiology*
  • Neurons / physiology
  • Potassium / pharmacology
  • Urodela


  • Glutamates
  • N-Methylaspartate
  • Potassium
  • Kainic Acid