The dipeptide N-acetylaspartylglutamate (NAAG), and possibly the related dipeptide aspartylglutamate (AG), have been found in high concentrations in rat brain, and have been shown to bind avidly and selectively to a subset of glutamate (GLUT) receptors. Certain observations regarding GLUT and aspartate might be explained if the endogenous transmitter were a compound composed of both amino acids. We therefore examined the electrophysiological actions of NAAG and AG in the rat in vitro rat hippocampal slice model. NAAG or AG and GLUT were applied locally to cells by a dual-barrel pressure technique. Intracellular recordings from 34 CA1 pyramidal neurons showed depolarizations and conductance increases resembling evoked excitatory postsynaptic potential in 15 of 20 cells exposed to NAAG, and 14 of 14 exposed to AG. Many GLUT-responsive sites did not respond to AG, and most did not respond to NAAG. Responses to NAAG were usually too small to induce cell firing; they were best detected, therefore, by intracellular recording. With extracellular unit recordings, GLUT was equally excitatory in stratum radiatum and pyramidale of CA1 (N = 19; p greater than 0.10, one-way analysis of variance). In contrast, AG was considerably more potent (N = 21; p less than 0.01) in stratum radiatum. NAAG was not noted to excite cells when applied to stratum pyramidale. The region of maximal responsiveness to AG in CA1 coincided with the area of the dendritic tree receiving Schaffer collateral-commissural afferents. This spatial profile, together with other neuropharmacological evidence, support the candidacy of glutamate-containing peptides as endogenous excitatory compounds in certain pathways of hippocampus.
View details for Web of Science ID A1985AKC7400006
View details for PubMedID 2989450