NCX1 and EAAC1 transporters are involved in the protective action of glutamate in an in vitro Alzheimer's disease-like model

Simona Magi, Silvia Piccirillo, Marta Maiolino, Vincenzo Lariccia, Salvatore Amoroso

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

12 Scopus citations


Increasing evidence suggests that metabolic dysfunctions are at the roots of neurodegenerative disorders such as Alzheimer's disease (AD). In particular, defects in cerebral glucose metabolism, which have been often noted even before the occurrence of clinical symptoms and histopathological lesions, are now regarded as critical contributors to the pathogenesis of AD. Hence, the stimulation of energy metabolism, by enhancing the availability of specific metabolites, might be an alternative way to improve ATP synthesis and to positively affect AD progression. For instance, glutamate may serve as an intermediary metabolite for ATP synthesis through the tricarboxylic acid (TCA) cycle and the oxidative phosphorylation. We have recently shown that two transporters are critical for the anaplerotic use of glutamate: the Na+-dependent Excitatory Amino Acids Carrier 1 (EAAC1) and the Na+-Ca2+ exchanger 1 (NCX1). Therefore, in the present study, we established an AD-like phenotype by perturbing glucose metabolism in both primary rat cortical neurons and retinoic acid (RA)-differentiated SH-SY5Y cells, and we explored the potential of glutamate to halt cell damage by monitoring neurotoxicity, AD markers, ATP synthesis, cytosolic Ca2+ levels and EAAC1/NCX1 functional activities. We found that glutamate significantly increased ATP production and cell survival, reduced the increase of AD biomarkers (amyloid β protein and the hyperphosphorylated form of tau protein), and recovered the increase of NCX reverse-mode activity. The RNA silencing of either EAAC1 or NCX1 caused the loss of the beneficial effects of glutamate, suggesting the requirement of a functional interplay between these transporters for glutamate-induced protection. Remarkably, our results indicate, as proof-of-principle, that facilitating the use of alternative fuels, like glutamate, may be an effective approach to overcome deficits in glucose utilization and significantly slow down neuronal degenerative process in AD.

Original languageEnglish
Article number102268
JournalCell Calcium
StatePublished - 1 Nov 2020
Externally publishedYes


  • Alzheimer's Disease
  • EAAC1
  • Glutamate
  • Metabolism
  • NCX1
  • Neuronal survival

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physiology
  • Molecular Biology
  • Cell Biology


Dive into the research topics of 'NCX1 and EAAC1 transporters are involved in the protective action of glutamate in an in vitro Alzheimer's disease-like model'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this