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Keywords:

  • glutamate transporter;
  • knockout mouse;
  • NMDA receptor;
  • plasticity;
  • synaptic transmission

Abstract

Although glutamate transporters maintain low extracellular levels of the excitatory neurotransmitter glutamate in the nervous system, little is known about their roles in synaptic plasticity. Here, using knockout mice lacking GLT-1, that is the most abundant glial subtype of glutamate transporters, we showed that long-term potentiation (LTP) induced by tetanic stimulation in mutant mice was impaired in the hippocampal CA1 region. When tetanic stimulation was applied in the presence of low concentrations of an N-methyl-d-aspartate (NMDA) receptor antagonist, the impairment was overcome. Consistent with these results, the increased glutamate in the synaptic cleft of mutant mice preferentially activated NMDA receptors. Furthermore, analyses of mutant mice revealed that the magnitude of NMDA receptor-dependent transient synaptic potentiation during low-frequency stimulation depended on the concentration of glutamate in the synaptic cleft. These findings suggest that GLT-1 plays critical roles in LTP induction, as well as in short-term potentiation, through regulation of extracellular levels of glutamate, which enables appropriate NMDA receptor activation.