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Papers of the Week

Papers: 4 May 2019 - 10 May 2019

Pharmacology/Drug Development

2019 Dec 15



Glutamate Transport System as a Key Constituent of Glutamosome: Molecular Pathology and Pharmacological Modulation in Chronic Pain.


Neural uptake of glutamate is executed by the structurally related members of the SLC1A family of solute transporters: GLAST /EAAT1, GLT-1 /EAAT2, EAAC1 /EAAT3, EAAT4, ASCT2. These plasma membrane proteins ensure supply of glutamate, aspartate and some neutral amino acids, including glutamine and cysteine, for synthetic, energetic and signaling purposes, whereas effective removal of glutamate from the synaptic cleft shapes excitatory neurotransmission and prevents glutamate toxicity. Glutamate transporters (GluTs) possess also receptor-like properties and can directly initiate signal transduction. GluTs are physically linked to other glutamate signaling-, transporting- and metabolizing molecules (e.g., glutamine transporters SNAT3 and ASCT2, glutamine synthetase, NMDA receptor, synaptic vesicles), as well as cellular machineries fueling the transmembrane transport of glutamate (e.g., ion gradient-generating Na/K-ATPase, glycolytic enzymes, mitochondrial membrane- and matrix proteins, glucose transporters). We designate this supramolecular functional assembly as 'glutamosome'. GluTs play important roles in the molecular pathology of chronic pain, due to the predominantly glutamatergic nature of nociceptive signalling in the spinal cord. Down-regulation of GluTs often precedes or occurs simultaneously with development of pain hypersensitivity. Pharmacological inhibition or gene knock-down of spinal GluTs can induce/aggravate pain, whereas enhancing expression of GluTs by viral gene transfer can mitigate chronic pain. Thus, functional up-regulation of GluTs is turning into a prospective pharmacotherapeutic approach for the management of chronic pain. A number of novel positive pharmacological regulators of GluTs, incl. pyridazine derivatives and β-lactams, have recently been introduced. However, design and development of new analgesics based on this principle will require more precise knowledge of molecular mechanisms underlying physiological or aberrant functioning of the glutamate transport system in nociceptive circuits.