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Publication Date



UM campus only

Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)


Physiology and Biophysics (Medicine)

Date of Defense


First Committee Member

Christof T. Grewer - Committee Chair

Second Committee Member

Gerhard P. Dahl - Committee Member

Third Committee Member

Vladlen Z. Slepak - Committee Member


The activity of glutamate transporters is essential for the temporal and spatial regulation of the neurotransmitter concentration in the synaptic cleft which is critical for proper neuronal signaling. Because of their role in controlling extracellular glutamate concentrations, dysfunctional glutamate transporters have been implicated in several neurodegenerative diseases and psychiatric disorders. Therefore, investigating the mechanism of substrate transport by these transporters is essential in understanding their behavior when they malfunction. A bacterial glutamate transporter homologue has been successfully crystallized revealing the molecular architecture of glutamate transporters. However, many important questions remain unanswered. In this thesis, I will address the role of D439 in the binding of Na+, and I will identify other electrogenic steps that contribute to the total electrogenicity of the transporter cycle. The role of D439 in the binding of Na+ to the transporter was explored previously in this lab. While it was proposed that the effect of D439 in Na+ binding is indirect, the results described in this thesis provides added support to this work. Here, I will show that the D439 mutation changed the pharmacology of EAAC1 such that THA was converted from a transported substrate to a competitive inhibitor. I will also show that Na+ binding to the substrate-bound mutant transporter occurred with the same affinity as that of Na+ to the substrate-bound wild-type transporter. Therefore, based on these results, D439 is not directly involved in the binding of Na+ to the substrate-bound transporter, but that its effect is rather indirect through changing the substrate binding properties. Na+ binding steps to the empty transporter and to the glutamate-bound EAAC1 contribute only 20% of the total electrogenicity of the glutamate transporter reactions cycle. While K+-induced relocation has been proposed to be electrogenic, there is no experimental evidence that supports it. In this work, I will show that the K+-induced relocation of the empty transporter is electrogenic. Moreover, the results in this work show that the K+-dependent steps are slower than the steps associated with the Na+/glutamate translocation suggesting that the K+-induced relocation determines the transporter?s properties at steady state.


Excitatory Amino Acid Transporter; Anion Conductance; Voltage-dependent; Transient Current