Evaluation of the Role of Astrocyte Glutamate Transport and of Synaptic NMDA Receptor Subtype Representation in the Pathogenesis of PTSD

TR Number



Journal Title

Journal ISSN

Volume Title


Virginia Tech


Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a psychological disorder that can cause great social/economic hardship. Progress towards treating PTSD has been slow due to a lack of understanding of its pathogenesis. This dissertation aimed to address this issue by investigating the involvement of the astrocytic glutamate reuptake transporter, GLT-1, and regional differences in expression of NMDA receptor subtypes in the development of a rat model of PTSD. We hypothesized that impaired astrocytic glutamate reuptake inhibits long-term memory processes, and that concurrent presence of glucocorticoids (GCs) during situational trauma selectively inhibits fear extinction memory processes in the prefrontal cortex, but not of conditioned fear memory processes in the amygdala, due to differences between these brain regions in expression of NMDA receptor subtypes. The effect of GLT-1 manipulation was studied in vivo. Utilizing the Single Prolonged Stress (SPS) model of PTSD, rats were either exposed to SPS or not. Within these groups, rats were administered a saline sham, a GLT-1 facilitator (ceftriaxone (CEF)), or a GLT-1 inhibitor (dihydrokainic acid (DHK)). Using Classical Fear Conditioning (CFC) and Fear Extinction (EXT) paradigms, retention of fear extinction memories was measured to determine the effect of GLT-1 manipulation on SPS-induced behavior (i.e., impaired fear extinction retention). From the brain of each rat, the amygdala, hippocampus, and prefrontal cortex (PFC) were collected and expression of GLT-1, p-CREB (a molecular indicator of long-term memory), and glucocorticoid receptor (GR, a molecular indicator of a PTSD-like state) were quantified. Analysis of the behavioral data showed that SPS exposure alone reduced the retention of extinction memories, but CEF and DHK both eliminated this effect. Analysis of the brain tissues revealed that SPS induced an increase in GR expression in the hippocampus. SPS also increased GLT-1 expression, but not p-CREB, in the PFC and amygdala. To evaluate the involvement of regional differences in NMDA receptor subtype expression ex vivo, tissue sections of amygdala, hippocampus, and PFC were taken from SPS and non-SPS exposed rats. Synaptic transmission was stimulated in these tissues using bicuculline in the presence of glucocorticoids, NVP-AA077 (a NR2A NMDA receptor subtype inhibitor), or Ro-25 (a NR2B NMDA receptor subtype inhibitor). P-CREB was measured in the tissues treated with GCs to determine if GCs exert greater inhibition of long-term memory in the PFC (a region reported to express high NR2A) than in the amygdala (a region reported to express high NR2B). P-CREB was also measured in the tissues treated with NVP or Ro-25 to determine if these reported receptor profile differences could be demonstrated, and if they changed following SPS exposure. Contrary to the stated hypothesis, analysis of non-SPS exposed rats revealed that GCs, NVP, and Ro-25 decreased p-CREB in all three regions with no differences between regions. However, in the SPS exposed group, p-CREB was not decreased in PFC and hippocampal tissues treated with GCs, amygdalar and PFC tissues treated with NVP, and PFC tissue treated with Ro-25. Overall, the results of the in vivo experiment did not convincingly demonstrate a role of glutamate spill-over in the pathogenesis of PTSD, but did show that modulation of glutamate reuptake can mitigate some of the behavioral consequences of exposure to situational trauma. The results of the ex vivo experiment did not reveal evidence that regional differences in NMDA receptor profiles exist across the three regions analyzed, nor did they show that GCs exert a region specific inhibition of long-term memory formation. However, it was demonstrated that SPS may affect long-term memory by altering expression of synaptic NMDA receptors. This study provides evidence that glial cells may play a role in the pathogenesis of PTSD, and thus may serve as targets for future therapy.



PTSD, astrocyte, GLT-1, NR2A, NR2B, glutamate reuptake