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Keywords:

  • Neuropeptide;
  • N-Acetylaspartylglutamate;
  • Extracellular peptidase;
  • Micropunch tissue samples;
  • Radioimmunoassay;
  • Glutamate;
  • N-Acetylaspartate.

Abstract: N-Acetylaspartylglutamate (NAAG), a prevalent peptide in the vertebrate nervous system, may be hydrolyzed by extracellular peptidase activity to produce glutamate and N-acetylaspartate. Hydrolysis can be viewed as both inactivating the peptide after synaptic release and increasing synaptic levels of ambient glutamate. To test the hypothesis that NAAG and the peptidase activity that hydrolyzes it coexist as a unique, two-stage system of chemical neurotransmission, 50 discrete regions of the rat CNS were microdissected for assay. In each microregion, the concentration of NAAG was determined by radioimmunoassay and the peptidase activity was assayed using tritiated peptide as substrate. The NAAG concentration ranged from 2.4 nmol/mg of soluble protein in median eminence to 64 in thoracic spinal cord. Peptidase activity against NAAG ranged from 54 pmol of glutamate produced per milligram of membrane protein per minute in median eminence to 148 in superior colliculus. A linear relationship was observed between NAAG peptidase and NAAG concentration in 46 of the 50 areas, with a slope of 2.26 and a correlation coefficient of 0.45. These data support the hypothesis that hydrolysis of NAAG to glutamate and N-acetylaspartate is a consistent aspect of the physiology and metabolism of this peptide after synaptic release. The ratio of peptide concentration to peptidase activity was >0.3 in the following four areas: ventrolateral medulla and reticular formation where the peptide is concentrated in axons of passage, thoracic spinal cord, where NAAG is concentrated in ascending sensory tracts as well as motoneuron cell bodies, and ventroposterior thalamic nucleus.