Expression of the cystine-glutamate exchanger (xc-) in retinal ganglion cells and regulation by nitric oxide and oxidative stress

Y. Dun, B. Mysona, T. Van Ells, L. Amarnath, M. Shamsul Ola, V. Ganapathy, S. B. Smith

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

89 Scopus citations


The cystine-glutamate exchanger, system xc-, mediates the Na+-independent exchange of cystine into cells, coupled to the efflux of intracellular glutamate. System xc- plays a critical role in glutathione homeostasis. Early studies of brain suggested that system xc- was present primarily in astrocytes but not neurons. More recent work indicates that certain brain neurons have an active system xc-. In the retina, system xc - has been demonstrated in Müller and retinal pigment epithelial cells. We have recently suggested that two protein components of system x c-, xCT and 4F2hc, are present in ganglion cells of the intact retina. Here, we have used (1) molecular and immunohistochemical assays to determine whether system xc- is present in primary ganglion cells isolated from neonatal mouse retinas and (2) functional assays to determine whether its activity is regulated by oxidative stress in a retinal ganglion cell line (RGC-5). Primary mouse ganglion cells and RGC-5 cells express xCT and 4F2hc. RGC-5 cells take up [3H]glutamate in the absence of Na+, and this uptake is blocked by known substrates of system x c- (glutamate, cysteine, cystine, quisqualic acid). Treatment of RGC-5 cells with NO and reactive oxygen species donors leads to increased activity of system xc- associated with an increase in the maximal velocity of the transporter with no significant change in the substrate affinity. This is the first report of system xc - in primary retinal ganglion cells and RGC-5 cells. Oxidative stress upregulates this transport system in RGC-5 cells, and the process is associated with an increase in xCT mRNA and protein but no change in 4F2hc mRNA or protein.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)189-202
Number of pages14
JournalCell and Tissue Research
Issue number2
StatePublished - May 2006


  • Cystine/glutamate exchanger
  • Mouse
  • Nitric oxide
  • Oxidative stress
  • Primary culture
  • Retinal ganglion cells

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pathology and Forensic Medicine
  • Histology
  • Cell Biology


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