Drugs which upregulate astrocyte glutamate transport may be useful neuroprotective compounds by preventing excitotoxicity. We set up a new system to identify potential neuroprotective drugs which act through GLT-1. Primary mouse striatal astrocytes grown in the presence of the growth-factor supplement G5 express high levels of the functional glutamate transporter, GLT-1 (also known as EAAT2) as assessed by Western blotting and H-3-glutamate uptake assay, and levels decline following growth factor withdrawal. The GLT-1 transcriptional enhancer dexamethasone (0.1 or 1 mu M) was able to prevent loss of GLT-1 levels and activity following growth factor withdrawal. In contrast, ceftriaxone, a compound previously reported to enhance GLT-1 expression, failed to regulate GLT-1 in this system. The neuroprotective compound riluzole (100 mu M) upregulated GLT-1 levels and activity, through a mechanism that was not dependent on blockade of voltage-sensitive ion channels, since zonasimide (1 mM) did not regulate GLT-1. Finally, COP-choline (10 mu M-1 mM), a compound which promotes association of GLT-1/EAAT2 with lipid rafts was unable to prevent GLT-1 loss under these conditions. This observation extends the known pharmacological actions of riluzole, and suggests that this compound may exert its neuroprotective effects through an astrocyte-dependent mechanism. (C) 2011 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.