Glutamate is the major excitatory neurotransmitter in the mammalian central nervous system playing critical roles in basal synaptic transmission and mechanisms of learning and memory. Under normal conditions, glutamate is sequestered within synaptic vesicles (~100 mM) with extracellular glutamate concentrations being limited (<1 μM), via retrieval by plasma-membrane transporters on neuronal and glial cells. In the case of central nervous system trauma, stroke, epilepsy, and in certain neurodegenerative diseases, increased concentrations of extracellular glutamate (by vesicular release, cell lysis and/or decreased glutamate transporter uptake/reversal) stimulate the overactivation of local ionotropic glutamate receptors that trigger neuronal cell death (excitotoxicity). Other natural agonists, such as domoic acid, alcohol and auto-antibodies, have also been reported to induce excitotoxicity.

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