PI: Ann Massie
Frank Van Der Kelen (technician)
Our team focuses on glutamate transport, with emphasis on system xc-, in health and disease. We have ongoing projects on the role of system xc- or the cystine/glutamate antiporter in e.g. Parkinson’s disease, cortical plasticity (collaboration with Dr. L. Arckens, KULeuven) and spinal cord injury (collaboration with Dr. C. Nicaise, UNamur). In most of these projects, neuro-immune communication is receiving increasing attention. Our overall hypothesis that inhibition of system xc- might be a therapeutic strategy to treat (age-related) diseases that are characterized by excitotoxicity and neuroinflammation, also necessitates research towards the importance of system xc- in normal (healthy) brain functioning. As such, we recently started to study how system xc- regulates glutamatergic transmission and plasticity under physiological conditions (collaboration with Dr. L. Ris, UMONS; Dr. C. Meshul, OHSU, Portland, USA). Moreover, we study the involvement of system xc- in the process of brain ageing and how this is impacted by peripheral immune senescence.
Figure: Glutamate (Glu) is loaded into presynaptic vesicles by vesicular glutamate transporters (VGLUTs). After its release into the synaptic cleft, glutamate is cleared by high-affinity Na+/K+-dependent glutamate transporters (EAATs). Glutamate can be released into the extrasynaptic space via system xc- or the cystine/glutamate antiporter. This antiporter imports one cystine molecule in exchange for one glutamate molecule.