Potassium and glutamate transport is impaired in scar-forming tumor-associated astrocytes
Campbell, Susan C.
Mills, William A.
Yang, Jennifer H.
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Unprovoked recurrent seizures are a serious comorbidity affecting most patients who suffer from glioma, a primary brain tumor composed of malignant glial cells. Cellular mechanisms contributing to the development of recurrent spontaneous seizures include the release of the excitatory neurotransmitter glutamate from glioma into extracellular space. Under physiological conditions, astrocytes express two high affinity glutamate transporters, Glt-1 and Glast, which are responsible for the removal of excess extracellular glutamate. In the context of neurological disease or brain injury, astrocytes become reactive which can negatively affect neuronal function, causing hyperexcitability and/or death. Using electrophysiology, immunohistochemistry, fluorescent in situ hybridization, and Western blot analysis in different orthotopic xenograft and allograft models of human and mouse gliomas, we find that peritumoral astrocytes exhibit astrocyte scar formation characterized by proliferation, cellular hypertrophy, process elongation, and increased GFAP and pSTAT3. Overall, peritumoral reactive astrocytes show a significant reduction in glutamate and potassium uptake, as well as decreased glutamine synthetase activity. A subset of peritumoral astrocytes displayed a depolarized resting membrane potential, further contributing to reduced potassium and glutamate homeostasis. These changes may contribute to the propagation of peritumoral neuronal hyperexcitability and excitotoxic death.