Excitatory amino acid receptors are currently regarded as the principal neurotransmitter receptors that mediate synaptic excitation in the vertebrate central nervous system (CNS). The first demonstration that acidic amino acids could act as excitatory neurotransmitters dates to the early 1950s and arose from experiments in which monosodium glutamate topically applied to motor cortex caused tonic convulsions (9 1 ) . Subsequently, experiments with single spinal cord and CNS neurons illustrated the direct depolarizing action of L-glutamate (Glu) and L-aspartate (70). Despite the considerable enthusiasm generated by the initial flurry of discoveries, a long period of skepticism about the possible transmitter role for these amino acids followed. GIu was deemed to have "too ubiquitous" a distribution and a rather high concentration in the brain to be a neurotransmitter. Today, Glu essentially satisfies the four main criteria for classification as a neurotransmitter: (a) presynaptic localization; (b) specific release by physiological stimuli in concentrations sufficiently high enough to elicit a postsynaptic response; (c) identical action to the endogenous transmitter including response to antagonists; and (d) the existence of mechÂ anisms to terminate transmitter action rapidly (70, 1 52) . This review focuses primarily on the physiology and molecular biology of the
Annual Review of Physiology – Annual Reviews
Published: Mar 1, 1992
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