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

David V. Pow*, Nigel L. Barnett

*Corresponding author for this work

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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 Muller 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 Muller 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 Muller 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 Muller cells and astrocytes. We conclude that, during early retinal development, the low levels of GLAST expression by Muller 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 Muller 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.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)57-66
Number of pages10
JournalCell and Tissue Research
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 17 Jul 1999
Externally publishedYes


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