2008 Volume 21 Issue 1 Pages 25-51
Seventy years ago it was discovered that glutamate is abundant in the brain and that it plays a central role in brain metabolism. However, it took the scientific community a long time to realize that glutamate also acts as a neurotransmitter. Glutamate is an amino acid and brain tissue contains as much as 5 - 15 mM glutamate per kg depending on the region, which is more than of any other amino acid. The main motivation for the ongoing research on glutamate is due to the role of glutamate in the signal transduction in the nervous systems of apparently all complex living organisms, including man. Glutamate is considered to be the major mediator of excitatory signals in the mammalian central nervous system and is involved in most aspects of normal brain function including cognition, memory and learning. In this review, the basic biology of the excitatory amino acids glutamate, glutamate receptors, GABA, and glycine will first be explored. In the second part of this review, the known pathophysiology and pathology will be described.