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Keywords:

  • autocrine;
  • glutamate;
  • glutamate receptor;
  • glutamate transporter;
  • neurotransmitter;
  • paracrine;
  • vesicular glutamate transporter;
  • peripheral tissues

The hypothesis that l-glutamate (Glu) is an excitatory amino acid neurotransmitter in the mammalian central nervous system is now gaining more support after the successful cloning of a number of genes coding for the signaling machinery required for this neurocrine at synapses in the brain. These include Glu receptors (signal detection), Glu transporters (signal termination) and vesicular Glu transporters (signal output through exocytotic release). Relatively little attention has been paid to the functional expression of these molecules required for Glu signaling in peripheral neuronal and non-neuronal tissues; however, recent molecular biological analyses show a novel function for Glu as an extracellular signal mediator in the autocrine and/or paracrine system. Emerging evidence suggests that Glu could play a dual role in mechanisms underlying the maintenance of cellular homeostasis – as an excitatory neurotransmitter in the central neurocrine system and an extracellular signal mediator in peripheral autocrine and/or paracrine tissues. In this review, the possible Glu signaling methods are outlined in specific peripheral tissues including bone, testis, pancreas, and the adrenal, pituitary and pineal glands.