The Multiple Roles of Glutamate and Aspartate in Neural Tissues

  • Richard P. Shank
  • Lewis T. GrahamJr.


l-Glutamate and l-aspartate, like many other substances, serve a number of functions in biological tissues. In virtually all types of biological cells these amino acids serve as constituents of protein, intermediates in energy and nitrogen metabolism, and as precursors of other biochemical compounds. In many cells, particularly neurons, these amino acids are utilized for even more functions. Both glutamate and aspartate are probably major excitatory neurotransmitters, and both make a significant contribution to the osmotic and ionic state of nerve cells. They are also immediate precursors of other compounds which have unique physiological roles in nerve tissues. For example, glutamate is the metabolic precursor of γ-aminobutyrate (GABA) which serves as a major inhibitory neurotransmitter (in addition to other possible functions), and aspartate is an immediate precursor of N-acetylaspartate, whose neural functions include a role in the maintenance of intracellular ionic balance. Because most of the functions mediated by glutamate and aspartate are common to both, we have chosen to include in this chapter the functions of both amino acids.


Free Amino Acid Synaptic Vesicle Nerve Terminal Neural Tissue Glia Cell 
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Copyright information

© Plenum Press, New York 1978

Authors and Affiliations

  • Richard P. Shank
    • 1
  • Lewis T. GrahamJr.
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of PhysiologyTemple University School of MedicinePhiladelphiaUSA
  2. 2.Department of Biochemistry and Molecular BiologyLouisiana State University Medical CenterShreveportUSA

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