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The Impact of Glutamate Signaling on Tumor Progression Open Access

Glutamate is critically important as an excitatory neurotransmitter in the central nervous system. Increasing evidence suggests additional signaling roles for glutamate in cell proliferation and migration in normal and oncogenic states. Recently, glutamate release from glioma cells has been shown to increase tumor growth in vivo. To investigate the mechanism of glutamate enhancement of tumor growth, we investigated the effect of glutamate on tumor cell proliferation, invasion, and glioma-induced cell death. Here we demonstrate that glutamate enhances tumor growth via increasing tumor cell proliferation and inducing excitotoxic death of cells surrounding the solid tumor mass, thereby facilitating tumor expansion. The evidence that glutamate enhances tumor growth suggests that regulating extracellular levels of glutamate may restrict tumor growth. In the normal brain, extracellular glutamate levels are maintained by a family of glutamate transporters. To investigate the therapeutic potential of regulating extracellular glutamate concentrations on tumor growth, we utilized a transgenic mouse model of EAAT2 glutamate transporter overexpression. In this report, we demonstrate that increased glutamate transport limits tumor growth in vivo and provides protection against glioma-associated neuronal cell death. In addition, seizure activity, often associated with the presence of a CNS tumor, is attenuated in transgenic mice overexpressing the glutamate transporter, EAAT2. These findings suggest that glutamate transporters may provide a new therapeutic target for limiting tumor expansion and secondary epileptogenesis.

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