Excitatory amino acid transporters (EAATs) are high-affinity Na+-dependent carriers of major importance in maintaining glutamate homeostasis in the central nervous system. EAAT3, the human counterpart of the rodent excitatory amino acid carrier 1 (EAAC1), is encoded by the SLC1A1 gene. EAAT3/EAAC1 is ubiquitously expressed in the brain, mostly in neurons but also in other cell types, such as oligodendrocyte precursors. While most of the glutamate released in the synapses is taken up by the “glial-type” EAATs, EAAT2 (GLT-1 in rodents) and EAAT1 (GLAST), the functional role of EAAT3/EAAC1 is related to the subtle regulation of glutamatergic transmission. Moreover, because it can also transport cysteine, EAAT3/EAAC1 is believed to be important for the synthesis of intracellular glutathione and subsequent protection from oxidative stress. In contrast to other EAATs, EAAT3/EAAC1 is mostly intracellular, and several mechanisms have been described for the rapid regulation of the membrane trafficking of the transporter. Moreover, the carrier interacts with several proteins, and this interaction modulates transport activity. Much less is known about the slow regulatory mechanisms acting on the expression of the transporter, although several recent reports have identified changes in EAAT3/EAAC1 protein level and activity related to modulation of its expression at the gene level. Moreover, EAAT3/EAAC1 expression is altered in pathological conditions, such as hypoxia/ischemia, multiple sclerosis, schizophrenia, and epilepsy. This review summarizes these results and provides an overall picture of changes in EAAT3/EAAC1 expression in health and disease.
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