Cytosolic acidification and intracellular zinc release in hippocampal neurons


Address correspondence and reprint requests to Lech Kiedrowski, The Psychiatric Institute, 1601 W. Taylor Street, Room 564, Chicago, IL 60612, USA. E-mail:


J. Neurochem. (2012) 121, 438–450.


In neurons exposed to glutamate, Ca2+ influx triggers intracellular Zn2+ release via an as yet unclear mechanism. As glutamate induces a Ca2+-dependent cytosolic acidification, the present work tested the relationships among intracellular Ca2+ concentration ([Ca2+]i), intracellular pH (pHi), and [Zn2+]i. Cultured hippocampal neurons were exposed to glutamate and glycine (Glu/Gly), while [Zn2+]i, [Ca2+]i and pHi were monitored using FluoZin-3, Fura2-FF, and 2′,7′-bis-(2-carboxyethyl)-5(6)-carboxyfluorescein, respectively. Glu/Gly applications decreased pHi to 6.1 and induced intracellular Zn2+ release in a Ca2+-dependent manner, as expected. The pHi drop reduced the affinity of FluoZin-3 and Fura-2-FF for Zn2+. The rate of Glu/Gly-induced [Zn2+]i increase was not correlated with the rate of [Ca2+]i increase. Instead, the extent of [Zn2+]i elevations corresponded well to the rate of pHi drop. Namely, [Zn2+]i increased more in more highly acidified neurons. Inhibiting the mechanisms responsible for the Ca2+-dependent pHi drop (plasmalemmal Ca2+ pump and mitochondria) counteracted the Glu/Gly-induced intracellular Zn2+ release. Alkaline pH (8.5) suppressed Glu/Gly-induced intracellular Zn2+ release whereas acidic pH (6.0) enhanced it. A pHi drop to 6.0 (without any Ca2+ influx or glutamate receptor activation) led to intracellular Zn2+ release; the released Zn2+ (free Zn2+ plus Zn2+ bound to Fura-2FF and FluoZin-3) reached 1 μM.