Vesicular glutamate transporters (VGLUTs): the three musketeers of glutamatergic system
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Glutamate is the predominant excitatory neurotransmitter in the central nervous system (CNS) and glutamatergic transmission is critical for controlling neuronal activity. Glutamate is stored in synaptic vesicles and released upon stimulation. The homeostasis of glutamatergic system is maintained by a set of transporters present in plasma membrane and in the membrane of synaptic vesicles. The family of vesicular glutamate transporters in mammals is comprised of three highly homologous proteins: VGLUT1-3. The expression of particular VGLUTs is largely complementary with limited overlap and so far they are most specific markers for neurons that use glutamate as neurotransmitter. VGLUTs are regulated developmentally and determine functionally distinct populations of glutamatergic neurons. Controlling the activity of these proteins could potentially modulate the efficiency of excitatory neurotransmission. This review summarizes the recent knowledge concerning molecular and functional characteristic of vesicular glutamate transporters, their development, contribution to synaptic plasticity and their involvement in pathology of the nervous system.
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M. Liguz-Lecznar, Department of Molecular and Cellular Neurobiology, Nencki Institute of Experimental Biology, 3 Pasteur St., 02-093 Warsaw, Poland