Observations of elevated CSF glutamate in amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), together with findings that motor neurons are selectively vulnerable to glutamate receptor-mediated ("excitotoxic") injury, support an excitotoxic contribution to the motor neuron loss in the disease. However, the basis of the apparent loss of astrocytic glutamate transport capacity in affected areas of motor cortex and spinal cord, which probably underlies the extracellular glutamate elevations, is unexplained. Here, we find that glutamate induces far greater reactive oxygen species (ROS) generation in cultured motor neurons than in other spinal neurons. In addition, we found that the ROS seem to be able to leave the motor neurons and induce oxidation and disruption of glutamate uptake in neighboring astrocytes. Correspondingly, in a transgenic mouse model of ALS, protein oxidation was increased in regions immediately surrounding motor neurons. These results provide a mechanism that can account for the localized loss of glial glutamate transport seen in the disease. Furthermore, the observations lend support for a feedforward model involving reciprocal interactions between motor neurons and glia, which may prove useful in understanding ALS pathogenesis.
Rao, S. D., Yin, H. Z., & Weiss, J. H. (2003). Disruption of glial glutamate transport by reactive oxygen species produced in motor neurons. The Journal of Neuroscience : The Official Journal of the Society for Neuroscience, 23(7), 2627–33. Retrieved from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12684448