Glutamate Transporters: Expression and Function in Oligodendrocytes

  • Edna Suárez-Pozos
  • Elizabeth J. Thomason
  • Babette FussEmail author
Original Paper


Glutamate, the main excitatory neurotransmitter of the vertebrate central nervous system (CNS), is well known as a regulator of neuronal plasticity and neurodevelopment. Such glutamate function is thought to be mediated primarily by signaling through glutamate receptors. Thus, it requires a tight regulation of extracellular glutamate levels and a fine-tuned homeostasis that, when dysregulated, has been associated with a wide range of central pathologies including neuropsychiatric, neurodevelopmental, and neurodegenerative disorders. In the mammalian CNS, extracellular glutamate levels are controlled by a family of sodium-dependent glutamate transporters belonging to the solute carrier family 1 (SLC1) that are also referred to as excitatory amino acid transporters (EAATs). The presumed main function of EAATs has been best described in the context of synaptic transmission where EAATs expressed by astrocytes and neurons effectively regulate extracellular glutamate levels so that synapses can function independently. There is, however, increasing evidence that EAATs are expressed by cells other than astrocytes and neurons, and that they exhibit functions beyond glutamate clearance. In this review, we will focus on the expression and functions of EAATs in the myelinating cells of the CNS, oligodendrocytes. More specifically, we will discuss potential roles of oligodendrocyte-expressed EAATs in contributing to extracellular glutamate homeostasis, and in regulating oligodendrocyte maturation and CNS myelination by exerting signaling functions that have traditionally been associated with glutamate receptors. In addition, we will provide some examples for how dysregulation of oligodendrocyte-expressed EAATs may be involved in the pathophysiology of neurologic diseases.


Glutamate Glutamate transporter Oligodendrocyte Myelination Multiple sclerosis Neuropsychiatric disorders 



The authors are supported by Grants from the National Institute of Health (B.F.), the National Multiple Sclerosis Society (B.F.) and the Commonwealth Health Research Board (B.F.).

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no potential conflicts.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Edna Suárez-Pozos
    • 1
  • Elizabeth J. Thomason
    • 1
  • Babette Fuss
    • 1
    Email author
  1. 1.Department of Anatomy and NeurobiologyVirginia Commonwealth University School of MedicineRichmondUSA

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