Glutamate's Role in the Brain

Glutamate is an important neurotransmitter present in over 90% of all brain synapses and is a naturally occurring molecule that nerve cells use to send signals to other cells in the central nervous system. Glutamate plays an essential role in normal brain functioning and its levels must be tightly regulated. Abnormalities in glutamate function can disrupt nerve health and communication, and in extreme cases may lead to nerve cell death. Nerve cell dysfunction and death leads to devastating diseases, including ataxia, ALS and other neurological and neuropsychiatric disorders. Glutamate clearance is necessary for proper synaptic activity and to prevent neuronal damage from excessive activation of glutamate receptors. Excitatory amino-acid transporters, or EAATs, regulate glutamate clearance, and are responsible for most of the glutamate uptake within the brain. Modulating glutamate also has the potential to be neuroprotective and increase the release of neurotrophic factors, including brain derived neurotrophic factor, or BDNF, which are endogenous molecules that help to support the survival of existing neurons, and encourage the growth and differentiation of new neurons and synapses.

Glutamate must be tightly regulated once released from a pre-synaptic neuron and acts as a signaling neurotransmitter to stimulate the post-synaptic neuron via stimulation of glutamate receptors (e.g., NMDA, AMPA or Kainate receptors).Glial cells surrounding the synaptic junction are predominantly responsible for clearing glutamate through transporters, the EAATs. There are five distinct types of glutamate transporters. (1) As depicted in the green-colored glial cell marked with “1” on the right side of figure, Troriluzole increase the activity of the EAATs to increase the clearance of glutamate and decrease glutamate release from the pre-synaptic neuron. Troriluzole also inhibit presynaptic ion channels that may inhibit the release of glutamate from presynaptic neurons. (2) As depicted in the purple-colored postsynaptic neuron to the bottom of the figure marked with “2”,troriluzole blocks glutamate signaling that is mediated by post-synaptic NMDA receptors. Modulating glutamate also has the potential to be neuroprotective and increase the release of neurotrophic factors, including brain derived neurotrophic factor, or BDNF, which are endogenous molecules that help to support the survival of existing neurons, and encourage the growth and differentiation of new neurons and synapses.

Glutamate Mechanisms of Action in CNS