Semi-quantitative distribution of excitatory amino acid (glutamate) transporters 1-3 (EAAT1-3) and the cystine-glutamate exchanger (xCT) in the adult murine spinal cord

Qiu-Xiang Hu, Gesa M Klatt, Ruben Gudmundsrud, Sigrid Ottestad-Hansen, Lise Verbruggen, Ann Massie, Niels Christian Danbolt, Yun Zhou

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Proper glutamatergic neurotransmission requires a balance between glutamate release and removal. The removal is mainly catalyzed by the glutamate transporters EAAT1-3, while the glutamate-cystine exchanger (system xc- with specific subunit xCT) represents one of the release mechanisms. Previous studies of the spinal cord have focused on the cellular distribution of EAAT1-3 with special reference to the dorsal horn, but have not provided quantitative data and have not systematically compared multiple segments. Here we have studied the distribution of EAAT1-3 and xCT in sections of multiple spinal segments using knockout tissue as negative controls. EAAT2 and EAAT3 were evenly expressed in all grey matter areas at all segmental levels albeit with slightly higher levels in laminae 1-4 (dorsal horn). Somewhat higher levels of EAAT2 were also seen in lamina 9 (ventral horn), while EAAT3 was also detected in the lateral spinal nucleus. EAAT1 was concentrated in laminae 1-3, lamina 10, the intermediolateral nucleus and the sacral parasympathetic nucleus, while xCT was concentrated in laminae 1-3, lamina 10 and the leptomeninges. The levels of these four transporters were low in white matter, which represents 42% the spinal cord volume. Quantitative immunoblotting revealed that the average level of EAAT1 in the whole spinal cord was 0.6±0.1% of that in the cerebellum, while the levels of EAAT2, EAAT3 and xCT were, respectively, 41.6±12%, 39.8±7.6%, and 30.8±4.3% of the levels in the hippocampus (mean values ± SEM). Conclusions: Because the hippocampal tissue content of EAAT2 protein is two orders of magnitude higher than the content of the EAAT3, it follows that most of the gray matter in the spinal cord depends almost exclusively on EAAT2 for glutamate removal, while the lamina involved in the processing of autonomic and nociceptive information rely on a complex system of transporters.

Original languageEnglish
Article number104811
Number of pages12
JournalNeurochemistry International
Early online date5 Aug 2020
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2020

Bibliographical note

Copyright © 2020 The Author(s). Published by Elsevier Ltd.. All rights reserved.


  • Slc1a1
  • Slc1a2
  • Slc1a3
  • Slc7a11
  • spinal cord
  • glutamate transporter


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