The L-glutamate (Glu) has been hypothesized as an excitatory amino acid neurotransmitter in the mammalian central nervous system after successful cloning and identification of a number of genes encoding signaling machineries required for the neurocrine at synapses in the brain. These include excitatory amino acid transporters (EAATs) for signal termination and vesicular Glu transporters (VGLUTs) for signal output through exocytotic release, in addition to Glu receptors (GluRs) for signal input. These Glu signaling molecules not only play key roles in mechanisms associated with synaptic plasticity such as learning and memory, but also participate in the etiology and pathology of different neuropsychiatric disorders and neuronal cell death seen in various neurodegenerative diseases. Of the aforementioned Glu signaling molecules, EAATs are essential for the termination of signal transmission mediated by Glu as well as for the prevention of neurotoxicity mediated by this endogenous excitotoxin, while VGLUTs are crucial for the storage of Glu in synaptic vesicles to suffice for the definition of a glutamatergic phenotype. Many early desperate efforts were devoted to the search and development of novel compounds with a therapeutic window toward GluRs, while relatively little attention was paid to either EAATs or VGLUTs in this aspect. In this review, therefore, we will summarize the classification and functionality of EAATs and VGLUTs with a focus on their possibilities as potential therapeutic targets for different neurodegenerative and neuropsychiatric disorders related to malfunction of Glu signaling in human beings.
Keywords: glutamate, neurotransmitter, glutamate transporter, vesicular glutamate transporter, glutamate receptor, neurodegenerative disorder, neuropsychiatric disorder
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