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Anatomy and Neurobiology

First Advisor

Greg A. Gerhardt


L-glutamate (Glu) is the major excitatory neurotransmitter in the mammalian central nervous system. Monitoring extracellular Glu is critical to understanding Glu regulation to discriminate physiological and pathological roles. To overcome the limitations of previous in vivo extracellular Glu studies, we developed Glu selective microelectrode arrays with better spatial and temporal resolutions than commonly used techniques like microdialysis. We used these microelectrode arrays to characterize basal and potassium-evoked Glu neurotransmission in the normal rat brain. We then investigated disease-related Glu alterations in a rat model of Parkinson's disease and normal Glu regulation in young and aged rhesus monkeys. In the normal anesthetized rat striatum and frontal cortex, basal Glu was regulated by active release and uptake mechanisms, fully TTX-dependent, and measured at ~2 micromolar levels. Potassium-evoked Glu kinetics were fast, concentration-dependent, and rapidly reproducible at 15-20 seconds intervals. In the unilateral 6-hydroxydopamine-lesioned rat, there were significant bilateral increases in potassium-evoked Glu release in the striatum and frontal cortex compared to hemisphere-matched non-lesioned rats. Ipsilateral striatal effects may have been related to DA loss, while contralateral striatal effects and the bilateral frontal corticaleffects may have resulted from parkinsonian neurotransmitter changes or bilateral neuranatomical connectivity, especially in the cortex. There were also alterations in Glu kinetics in the nucleus accumbens in both non-lesioned and lesioned rats. With appropriate technological and methodological modifications, we successfully recorded normal Glu signaling in anesthetized nonhuman primates in the operating room. Fast potassium-evoked Glu signals were recorded in the motor cortex of all monkeys, and Glu ejections showed robust Glu uptake in the motor and frontal cortices of all monkeys. These findings are comparable to initial rat studies. Slow evoked Glu kinetics and high basal Glu levels with oscillatory behavior were recorded in the frontal cortex. The primary age-related differences between monkeys were the nearly ten-fold increases in the volumes of Glu ejected needed in the aged monkey to achieve amplitude-matched signals in the motor and frontal cortices and a decreased uptake rate in the motor cortex. Preliminary work with excised human tissue and future plans for patient-oriented research and clinical applications are discussed.



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