Novel mechanism of hypoxic neuronal injury mediated by non-excitatory amino acids and astroglial swelling

Iris Álvarez-Merz, Ioulia V. Fomitcheva, Jeremy Sword, Jesús M. Hernández-Guijo, José M. Solís, Sergei A. Kirov

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


In ischemic stroke and post-traumatic brain injury (TBI), blood–brain barrier disruption leads to leaking plasma amino acids (AA) into cerebral parenchyma. Bleeding in hemorrhagic stroke and TBI also release plasma AA. Although excitotoxic AA were extensively studied, little is known about non-excitatory AA during hypoxic injury. Hypoxia-induced synaptic depression in hippocampal slices becomes irreversible with non-excitatory AA, alongside their intracellular accumulation and increased tissue electrical resistance. Four non-excitatory AA (l-alanine, glycine, l-glutamine, l-serine: AGQS) at plasmatic concentrations were applied to slices from mice expressing EGFP in pyramidal neurons or astrocytes during normoxia or hypoxia. Two-photon imaging, light transmittance (LT) changes, and electrophysiological field recordings followed by electron microscopy in hippocampal CA1 st. radiatum were used to monitor synaptic function concurrently with cellular swelling and injury. During normoxia, AGQS-induced increase in LT was due to astroglial but not neuronal swelling. LT raise during hypoxia and AGQS manifested astroglial and neuronal swelling accompanied by a permanent loss of synaptic transmission and irreversible dendritic beading, signifying acute damage. Neuronal injury was not triggered by spreading depolarization which did not occur in our experiments. Hypoxia without AGQS did not cause cell swelling, leaving dendrites intact. Inhibition of NMDA receptors prevented neuronal damage and irreversible loss of synaptic function. Deleterious effects of AGQS during hypoxia were prevented by alanine-serine-cysteine transporters (ASCT2) and volume-regulated anion channels (VRAC) blockers. Our findings suggest that astroglial swelling induced by accumulation of non-excitatory AA and release of excitotoxins through antiporters and VRAC may exacerbate the hypoxia-induced neuronal injury.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2108-2130
Number of pages23
Issue number11
StatePublished - Nov 2022


  • amino acids transporters
  • astrocytic and neuronal swelling
  • non-excitatory amino acids
  • two-photon microscopy
  • volume-regulated anion channels

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neurology
  • Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience


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