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Keywords:

  • branched chain amino acids;
  • excitatory amino acids;
  • glutamate;
  • aspartate;
  • malate/aspartate shuttle;
  • gabapentin;
  • L-cycloserine;
  • aminotransferases

Abstract

In this study aminotransferase inhibitors were used to determine the relative importance of different aminotransferases in providing nitrogen for de novo glutamate synthesis in the retina. Aminooxyacetate, which inhibits all aminotransferases, blocked de novo glutamate synthesis from H14CO3 by more than 60%. Inhibition of neuronal cytosolic branched chain amino acid transamination by gabapentin or branched chain amino acid transport by the L-system substrate analog, 2-amino-bicyclo-(2,2,1)-heptane-2-carboxylic acid, lowered total de novo synthesis of glutamate by 30%, suggesting that branched chain amino acids may account for half of the glutamate nitrogen contributed by transamination reactions. L-cycloserine, an inhibitor of alanine aminotransferase, inhibited glutamate synthesis less than 15% when added in the presence of 5 mM pyruvate but 47% in the presence of 0.2 mM pyruvate. Although high levels of pyruvate blunted the inhibitory effectiveness of L-cycloserine, the results indicate that, under physiological conditions, alanine as well as branched chain amino acids are probably the predominant sources of glutamate nitrogen in ex vivo retinas. The L-cycloserine results were also used to evaluate activity of the malate/aspartate shuttle. In this shuttle, cytosolic aspartate (synthesized in mitochondria) generates cytosolic oxaloacetate that oxidizes cytosolic NADH via malate dehydrogenase. Because L-cycloserine inhibits cytosolic but not mitochondrial aspartate aminotransferase, L-cycloserine should prevent the utilization of aspartate but not its generation, thereby increasing levels of 14C-aspartate. Instead, L-cycloserine caused a significant decline in 14C-aspartate. The results suggest the possibility that shuttle activity is low in retinal Müller cells. Low malate/aspartate shuttle activity may be the molecular basis for the high rate of aerobic glycolysis in retinal Müller cells. © 2001 Wiley-Liss, Inc.