Purpose. High levels of glutamate can be toxic to retinal GCs. Thus, effective buffering of extracellular glutamate is important in preserving retinal structure and function. GLAST, a major glutamate transporter in the retina, and glutamine synthetase (GS) regulate extracellular glutamate accumulation and prevent excitotoxicity. This study was an examination of changes in function and expression of GLAST and GS in ex vivo rat retinas exposed to acute increases in ambient pressure. Methods. Ex vivo rat retinas were exposed to elevated hydrostatic pressure for 24 hours. The expression of GLAST and GS were examined using immunochemistry and real-time PCR analysis. Also examined were the effects of (2S,3S)-3-[3-[4-(trifluoromethyl) benzoylamino] benzyloxy] aspartate (TFB-TBOA), an inhibitor of glutamate transporters, and L-methionine-S-sulfoximine (MSO), an inhibitor of GS. Results. In this acute model, Western blot and real-time RT-PCR analyses revealed that substantially (75 mm Hg), but not moderately (35 mm Hg), elevated pressure depressed GLAST expression, diminished GS activity, and induced axonal swelling between the GC layer and the inner limiting membrane. However, at the moderately elevated pressure (35 mm Hg), administration of either TFB-TBOA or MSO also induced axonal swelling and excitotoxic neuronal damage. MSO did not depress GLAST expression but TFB-TBOA significantly suppressed GS, suggesting that downregulation of GS during pressure loading may result from impaired GLAST expression. Conclusions. The retina is at risk during acute intraocular pressure elevation due to downregulation of GS activity resulting from depressed GLAST expression.
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