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1.  Caldendrin–Jacob: A Protein Liaison That Couples NMDA Receptor Signalling to the Nucleus 
PLoS Biology  2008;6(2):e34.
NMDA (N-methyl-D-aspartate) receptors and calcium can exert multiple and very divergent effects within neuronal cells, thereby impacting opposing occurrences such as synaptic plasticity and neuronal degeneration. The neuronal Ca2+ sensor Caldendrin is a postsynaptic density component with high similarity to calmodulin. Jacob, a recently identified Caldendrin binding partner, is a novel protein abundantly expressed in limbic brain and cerebral cortex. Strictly depending upon activation of NMDA-type glutamate receptors, Jacob is recruited to neuronal nuclei, resulting in a rapid stripping of synaptic contacts and in a drastically altered morphology of the dendritic tree. Jacob's nuclear trafficking from distal dendrites crucially requires the classical Importin pathway. Caldendrin binds to Jacob's nuclear localization signal in a Ca2+-dependent manner, thereby controlling Jacob's extranuclear localization by competing with the binding of Importin-α to Jacob's nuclear localization signal. This competition requires sustained synapto-dendritic Ca2+ levels, which presumably cannot be achieved by activation of extrasynaptic NMDA receptors, but are confined to Ca2+ microdomains such as postsynaptic spines. Extrasynaptic NMDA receptors, as opposed to their synaptic counterparts, trigger the cAMP response element-binding protein (CREB) shut-off pathway, and cell death. We found that nuclear knockdown of Jacob prevents CREB shut-off after extrasynaptic NMDA receptor activation, whereas its nuclear overexpression induces CREB shut-off without NMDA receptor stimulation. Importantly, nuclear knockdown of Jacob attenuates NMDA-induced loss of synaptic contacts, and neuronal degeneration. This defines a novel mechanism of synapse-to-nucleus communication via a synaptic Ca2+-sensor protein, which links the activity of NMDA receptors to nuclear signalling events involved in modelling synapto-dendritic input and NMDA receptor–induced cellular degeneration.
Author Summary
Long-lasting changes in communication between nerve cells require the regulation of gene expression. The influx of calcium ions into the cell, particularly through membrane protein called NMDA receptors, plays a crucial role in this process by determining the type of gene expression induced. NMDA receptors can exert multiple and very divergent effects within neuronal cells by impacting opposing phenomena such as synaptic plasticity and neuronal degeneration. We identified a protein termed Jacob that appears to play a pivotal role in such processes by entering the nucleus in response to NMDA receptor activation and controlling gene expression that governs cell survival and the stability of synaptic cell contacts. Removal of Jacob from the nucleus protects neurons from NMDA receptor–induced cell death and increases phosphorylation of the transcription factor CREB, whereas the opposite occurs after targeting Jacob exclusively to the nucleus. The work defines a novel pathway of synapse-to-nucleus communication involved in modelling synapto-dendritic input and NMDA receptor–induced cellular degeneration.
A new signaling mechanism from NMDA receptors to the nucleus plays an important role in the phosphorylation of the transcription factor CREB and neuronal cell survival.
PMCID: PMC2253627  PMID: 18303947
2.  Dynamin-dependent NMDAR endocytosis during LTD and its dependence on synaptic state 
BMC Neuroscience  2005;6:48.
The N-methyl-D-aspartate (NMDA)-type glutamate receptor expressed at excitatory glutamatergic synapses is required for learning and memory and is critical for normal brain function. At a cellular level, this receptor plays a pivotal role in triggering and controlling synaptic plasticity. While it has been long recognized that this receptor plays a regulatory role, it was considered by many to be itself immune to synaptic activity-induced plasticity. More recently, we and others have shown that NMDA receptor-mediated synaptic responses can be subject to activity-dependent depression.
Here we show that depression of synaptic transmission mediated by NMDA receptors displays a state-dependence in its plasticity; NMDA receptors are resistant to activity-induced changes at silent and recently-silent synapses. Once synapses transition to the active state however, NMDA receptors become fully 'plastic'. This state-dependence is identical to that shown by the α-amino-3-hydroxy-5-methylisoxazole-4-propionic acid (AMPA) receptor. Furthermore, the down-regulation of NMDAR-mediated responses during synaptic depression is prevented by disruption of dynamin-dependent endocytosis.
NMDA receptor-mediated synaptic responses are plastic in a state-dependent manner. Depending on the plasticity state in which a synapse currently resides, NMDA receptors will either be available or unavailable for down-regulation. The mechanism underlying the down-regulation of NMDA receptor-mediated synaptic responses is endocytosis of the NMDA receptor. Other potential mechanisms, such as receptor diffusion along the plane of the membrane, or changes in the activity of the channel are not supported. The mechanisms of AMPA receptor and NMDA receptor endocytosis appear to be tightly coupled, as both are either available or unavailable for endocytosis in the same synaptic states. Endocytosis of NMDA receptors would serve as a potent mechanism for metaplasticity. Such state-dependent regulation of NMDAR endocytosis will provide fundamental control over downstream NMDA receptor-dependent plasticity of neuronal circuitry.
PMCID: PMC1187896  PMID: 16042781
3.  LRP1 is critical for the surface distribution and internalization of the NR2B NMDA receptor subtype 
The N-methyl-D-aspartate receptors are key mediators of excitatory transmission and are implicated in many forms of synaptic plasticity. These receptors are heterotetrameres consisting of two obligatory NR1 and two regulatory subunits, usually NR2A or NR2B. The NR2B subunits are abundant in the early postnatal brain, while the NR2A/NR2B ratio increases during early postnatal development. This shift is driven by NMDA receptor activity. A functional interplay of the Low Density Lipoprotein Receptor Related Protein 1 (LRP1) NMDA receptor has already been reported. Such abilities as interaction of LRP1 with NMDA receptor subunits or its important role in tPa-mediated NMDA receptor signaling were already demonstrated. Moreover, mice harboring a conditional neuronal knock-out mutation of the entire Lrp1 gene display NMDA-associated behavioral changes. However, the exact role of LRP1 on NMDA receptor function remains still elusive.
To provide a mechanistic explanation for such effects we investigated whether an inactivating knock-in mutation into the NPxY2 motif of LRP1 might influence the cell surface expression of LRP1 and NMDA receptors in primary cortical neurons. Here we demonstrate that a knock-in into the NPxY2 motif of LRP1 results in an increased surface expression of LRP1 and NR2B NMDA receptor subunit due to reduced endocytosis rates of LRP1 and the NR2B subunit in primary neurons derived from LRP1ΔNPxY2 animals. Furthermore, we demonstrate an altered phosphorylation pattern of S1480 and Y1472 in the NR2B subunit at the surface of LRP1ΔNPxY2 neurons, while the respective kinases Fyn and casein kinase II are not differently regulated compared with wild type controls. Performing co-immunoprecipitation experiments we demonstrate that binding of LRP1 to NR2B might be linked by PSD95, is phosphorylation dependent and this regulation mechanism is impaired in LRP1ΔNPxY2 neurons. Finally, we demonstrate hyperactivity and changes in spatial and reversal learning in LRP1ΔNPxY2 mice, confirming the mechanistic interaction in a physiological readout.
In summary, our data demonstrate that LRP1 plays a critical role in the regulation of NR2B expression at the cell surface and may provide a mechanistic explanation for the behavioral abnormalities detected in neuronal LRP1 knock-out animals reported earlier.
PMCID: PMC3722104  PMID: 23866919
LRP1; NPxY2 motif; NMDA receptor; NR1; NR2B receptor subunit; PSD95; Cell surface expression
4.  Effects of Ethanol on Phosphorylation Site Mutants of Recombinant NMDA Receptors 
Alcohol (Fayetteville, N.Y.)  2010;45(4):373-380.
N-methyl-D-aspartate (NMDA) receptors are ligand-gated ion channels activated by the neurotransmitter glutamate. These channels are highly expressed by brain neurons and are critically involved in excitatory synaptic transmission. Results from previous studies show that both native and recombinant NMDA receptors are inhibited by ethanol at concentrations associated with signs of behavioral impairment and intoxication. Given the important role that NMDA receptors play in synaptic transmission and brain function, it is important to understand the factors that regulate the ethanol inhibition of these receptors. One dynamic mechanism for regulating ethanol action may be via phosphorylation of NMDA subunits by serine-threonine and tyrosine kinases. Both NR1 and NR2 subunits contain multiple sites of phosphorylation and in the NR1 subunit, most of these are contained within the C1 domain, a carboxy-terminal cassette that is subject to alternative splicing. While results from our previous studies suggest that single phosphorylation sites do not greatly affect ethanol sensitivity of NMDA receptors, it is likely that in vivo, these subunits are phosphorylated at multiple sites by different kinases. In the present study, we constructed a series of NMDA receptor mutants at serine (S) or threonine (T) residues proposed to be sites of phosphorylation by PKA and various isoforms of PKC. Ethanol (100 mM) inhibited currents from wild-type NR1/2A and NR1/2B receptors expressed in HEK293 cells by approximately 25% and 30% respectively. This inhibition was not different in single site mutants expressing alanine (A) or aspartate/glutamate (D/E) at positions T879, S896 or T900. The mutant NR1(S890D) showed greater ethanol inhibition than NR1(890A) containing receptors although this was only observed when it was combined with the NR2A subunit. Ethanol inhibition was not altered by aspartate substitution at four serines (positions 889, 890, 896, 897) or when T879D was added to the four serine-substituted mutant. Ethanol inhibition was increased when T900E was added to the five serine/threonine substituted mutant but again this was selective for NR2A containing receptors. Together with previously published data, these findings suggest that modification of putative phosphorylation sites could contribute to the overall acute ethanol sensitivity of recombinant NMDA receptors. Supported by R37 AA009986.
PMCID: PMC3095724  PMID: 21163614
PKA; PKC; phosphorylation; electrophysiology; alcohol
5.  Activation of NMDA receptors leads to phosphorylation of TRPV1 S800 by protein kinase C and A-Kinase anchoring protein 150 in rat trigeminal ganglia 
A-Kinase anchoring protein 150 (AKAP150) is required for the phosphorylation of transient receptor potential cation channel subfamily V member 1 (TRPV1) by PKA or PKC in sensory neurons and, hence, affects TRPV1-dependent hyperalgesia under pathological conditions. Recently, we showed that the activation of N-methyl-d-aspartate (NMDA) receptors sensitizes TRPV1 by enhancing serine phosphorylation through PKC in trigeminal nociceptors. In this study, we extended this observation by investigating whether AKAP150 mediates NMDA-induced phosphorylation of TRPV1 via PKC in native sensory neurons in the rat. By adopting a phospho-specific antibody combined with a surface biotinylation assay, we first assessed NMDA-induced changes in the phosphorylation level of serine 800 residues (S800) in TRPV1 delimited to cell surface membrane in cultured trigeminal ganglia (TG). The biotinylation assay yielded that the application of NMDA significantly increased the phosphorylation of S800 (p-S800) of TRPV1 at time points correlating with the development of NMDA-induced mechanical hyperalgesia [10]. We then obtained a siRNA sequence against AKAP150 that dose-dependently down-regulated the AKAP150 protein. Pretreatment of TG culture with the siRNA, but not mismatch sequences, prevented the NMDA-induced phosphorylation of serine residues of total TRPV1 as well as S800 of membrane bound TRPV1. We confirmed that AKAP150 coimmunoprecipitated with TRPV1 and demonstrated that it also co-immunoprecipitated with NMDA receptor subunits (NR1 and NR2B) in TG. These data offer novel information that the activation of NMDA-induced TRPV1 sensitization involves p-S800 of TRPV1 in cell surface membrane in native sensory neurons and that AKAP150 is required for NMDA-and PKC-mediated phosphorylation of TRPV1 S800. Therefore, we propose that the NMDA receptor, AKAP150, and TRPV1 forms a signaling complex that underlies the sensitization of trigeminal nociceptors by modulating phosphorylation of specific TRPV1 residues.
PMCID: PMC3408820  PMID: 22789851
Nociceptor; Sensitization; Peripheral; Rat
6.  Neto1 Is a Novel CUB-Domain NMDA Receptor–Interacting Protein Required for Synaptic Plasticity and Learning 
PLoS Biology  2009;7(2):e1000041.
The N-methyl-D-aspartate receptor (NMDAR), a major excitatory ligand-gated ion channel in the central nervous system (CNS), is a principal mediator of synaptic plasticity. Here we report that neuropilin tolloid-like 1 (Neto1), a complement C1r/C1s, Uegf, Bmp1 (CUB) domain-containing transmembrane protein, is a novel component of the NMDAR complex critical for maintaining the abundance of NR2A-containing NMDARs in the postsynaptic density. Neto1-null mice have depressed long-term potentiation (LTP) at Schaffer collateral-CA1 synapses, with the subunit dependency of LTP induction switching from the normal predominance of NR2A- to NR2B-NMDARs. NMDAR-dependent spatial learning and memory is depressed in Neto1-null mice, indicating that Neto1 regulates NMDA receptor-dependent synaptic plasticity and cognition. Remarkably, we also found that the deficits in LTP, learning, and memory in Neto1-null mice were rescued by the ampakine CX546 at doses without effect in wild-type. Together, our results establish the principle that auxiliary proteins are required for the normal abundance of NMDAR subunits at synapses, and demonstrate that an inherited learning defect can be rescued pharmacologically, a finding with therapeutic implications for humans.
Author Summary
The fundamental unit for information processing in the brain is the synapse, a highly specialized site of communication between the brain's multitude of individual neurons. The strength of the communication at each synapse changes in response to neuronal activity—a process called synaptic plasticity—allowing networks of neurons to adapt and learn. How synaptic plasticity occurs is a major question in neurobiology. A central player in synaptic plasticity is an assembly of synaptic proteins called the NMDA receptor complex. Here, we discovered that the protein Neto1 is a component of the NMDA receptor complex. Neto1-deficient mice had a dramatic decrease in the number of NMDA receptors at synapses and consequently, synaptic plasticity and learning were impaired. By indirectly enhancing the function of the residual NMDA receptors in Neto1-deficient mice with a small molecule, we restored synaptic plasticity and learning to normal levels. Our findings establish the principle that inherited abnormalities of synaptic plasticity and learning due to NMDA receptor dysfunction can be pharmacologically corrected. Our discoveries also suggest that synaptic proteins that share a molecular signature, called the CUB domain, with Neto1 may be important components of synaptic receptors across species, because several CUB-domain proteins in worms have also been found to regulate synaptic receptors.
Spatial learning and memory depend on the N-methyl-D-aspartic acid receptor, a synaptic ion channel regulated by Neto1. Impaired cognition due to the absence of Neto1 can be rescued pharmacologically, a finding with implications for the therapy of inherited learning defects in humans.
PMCID: PMC2652390  PMID: 19243221
7.  Dopamine D1 receptor inhibition of NMDA receptor currents mediated by tyrosine kinase-dependent receptor trafficking in neonatal rat striatum 
The Journal of Physiology  2008;586(Pt 19):4693-4707.
NMDA receptors are of particular importance in the control of synaptic strength and integration of synaptic activity. Dopamine receptor modulation of NMDA receptors in neonatal striatum may influence the efficacy of synaptic transmission in the cortico-striatal pathway and if so, this modulation will affect the behaviour of the basal ganglia network. Here, we show that in acute brain slices of neonatal (P7) rat striatum the dopamine D1 receptor agonist SKF-82958 significantly decreases NMDA receptor currents in patch-clamp whole-cell recordings. This inhibition is not abolished by application of a G protein inhibitor (GDP-β-S) or irreversible G protein activator (GTP-γ-S) suggesting a G protein-independent mechanism. In addition, intracellular application of protein tyrosine kinase inhibitors (lavendustin A or PP2) abolished D1 inhibition of NMDA currents. In contrast, in older animals (P28) D1 receptor activation produces a potentiation of the NMDA response which suggests there is a developmental switch in D1 modulation of striatal NMDA receptors. Single-channel recordings show that direct D1 receptor inhibition of NMDA receptors cannot be observed in isolated membrane patches. We hypothesize that D1 inhibition in whole-cell recordings from neonatal rats may be mediated by a change in NMDA receptor trafficking. Consistent with this hypothesis, intracellular application of a dynamin inhibitory peptide (QVPSRPNRAP) abolished D1 inhibition of NMDA receptor currents. We therefore conclude that a tyrosine kinase-dependent alteration of NMDA receptor trafficking underlies D1 dopamine receptor-mediated down-regulation of NMDA receptor currents in medium spiny neurons of neonatal rat striatum.
PMCID: PMC2614044  PMID: 18703578
8.  Dopamine D1 receptor inhibition of NMDA receptor currents mediated by tyrosine kinase-dependent receptor trafficking in neonatal rat striatum 
The Journal of Physiology  2008;586(19):4693-4707.
NMDA receptors are of particular importance in the control of synaptic strength and integration of synaptic activity. Dopamine receptor modulation of NMDA receptors in neonatal striatum may influence the efficacy of synaptic transmission in the cortico-striatal pathway and if so, this modulation will affect the behaviour of the basal ganglia network. Here, we show that in acute brain slices of neonatal (P7) rat striatum the dopamine D1 receptor agonist SKF-82958 significantly decreases NMDA receptor currents in patch-clamp whole-cell recordings. This inhibition is not abolished by application of a G protein inhibitor (GDP-β-S) or irreversible G protein activator (GTP-γ-S) suggesting a G protein-independent mechanism. In addition, intracellular application of protein tyrosine kinase inhibitors (lavendustin A or PP2) abolished D1 inhibition of NMDA currents. In contrast, in older animals (P28) D1 receptor activation produces a potentiation of the NMDA response which suggests there is a developmental switch in D1 modulation of striatal NMDA receptors. Single-channel recordings show that direct D1 receptor inhibition of NMDA receptors cannot be observed in isolated membrane patches. We hypothesize that D1 inhibition in whole-cell recordings from neonatal rats may be mediated by a change in NMDA receptor trafficking. Consistent with this hypothesis, intracellular application of a dynamin inhibitory peptide (QVPSRPNRAP) abolished D1 inhibition of NMDA receptor currents. We therefore conclude that a tyrosine kinase-dependent alteration of NMDA receptor trafficking underlies D1 dopamine receptor-mediated down-regulation of NMDA receptor currents in medium spiny neurons of neonatal rat striatum.
PMCID: PMC2614044  PMID: 18703578
9.  Ethanol Inhibition of Recombinant NMDA Receptors Is Not Altered by Co-Expression of CaMKII-α or CaMKII-β 
Alcohol (Fayetteville, N.Y.)  2008;42(5):425-432.
Previous studies have shown that the N-methyl-D-aspartate (NMDA) receptor is an important target for the actions of ethanol in the brain. NMDA receptors are glutamate-activated ion channels that are highly expressed in neurons. They are activated during periods of significant glutamatergic synaptic activity and are an important source of the signaling molecule calcium in the post-synaptic spine. Alterations in the function of NMDA receptors by drugs or disease are associated with deficits in motor, sensory and cognitive processes of the brain. Acutely, ethanol inhibits ion flow through NMDA receptors while sustained exposure to ethanol can induce compensatory changes in the density and localization of the receptor. Defining factors that govern the acute ethanol sensitivity of NMDA receptors is an important step in how an individual responds to ethanol. In the present study, we investigated the effect of calcium-calmodulin dependent protein kinase II (CaMKII) on the ethanol sensitivity of recombinant NMDA receptors. CaMKII is a major constituent of the post-synaptic density and is critically involved in various forms of learning and memory. NMDA receptor subunits were transiently expressed in human embryonic kidney 293 cells (HEK 293) along with CaMKII-α or CaMKII-β tagged with the green fluorescent protein (GFP). Whole cell currents were elicited by brief exposures to glutamate and were measured using patchclamp electrophysiology. Neither CaMKII-α or CaMKII-β had any significant effect on the ethanol inhibition of NR1/2A or NR1/2B receptors. Ethanol inhibition was also unaltered by deletion of CaMKII binding domains in NR1 or NR2 subunits or by phospho-site mutants that mimic or occlude CaMKII phosphorylation. Chronic treatment of cortical neurons with ethanol had no significant effect on the expression of CaMKII-α or CaMKII-β. The results of this study suggest that CaMKII is not involved in regulating the acute ethanol sensitivity of NMDA receptors.
PMCID: PMC2629600  PMID: 18562151
electrophysiology; alcohol; ion channel; kinase; phosphorylation
10.  Fyn-mediated Phosphorylation of NR2B Tyr-1336 Controls Calpain-mediated NR2B Cleavage in Neurons and Heterologous Systems* 
The Journal of biological chemistry  2007;282(28):20075-20087.
Cleavage of the intracellular carboxyl terminus of the N-methyl-D-aspartate (NMDA) receptor 2 subunit (NR2) by calpain regulates NMDA receptor function and localization. Here, we show that Fyn-mediated phosphorylation of NR2B controls calpain-mediated NR2B cleavage. In cultured neurons, calpain-mediated NR2B cleavage is significantly attenuated by blocking NR2B phosphorylation of Tyr-1336, but not Tyr-1472, via inhibition of Src family kinase activity or decreasing Fyn levels by small interfering RNA. In HEK cells, mutation of Tyr-1336 eliminates the potentiating effect of Fyn on calpain-mediated NR2B cleavage. The potentiation of NR2B cleavage by Fyn is limited to cell surface receptors and is associated with calpain translocation to plasma membranes during NMDA receptor activation. Finally, reducing full-length NR2B by calpain does not decrease extrasynaptic NMDA receptor function, and truncated NR1/2B receptors similar to those generated by calpain have electrophysiological properties matching those of wild-type receptors. Thus, the Fyn-controlled regulation of NMDA receptor cleavage by calpain may play critical roles in controlling NMDA receptor properties during synaptic plasticity and excitotoxicity.
PMCID: PMC2464284  PMID: 17526495
11.  A neuroligin-1-derived peptide stimulates phosphorylation of the NMDA receptor NR1 subunit and rescues MK-801-induced decrease in long-term potentiation and memory impairment 
Neuroligins (NLs) are postsynaptic adhesion molecules, interacting with presynaptic neurexins (NXs), which determine the differential formation of excitatory (glutamatergic, NL1) and inhibitory (GABAergic, NL2) synapses. We have previously demonstrated that treatment with a NL2-derived peptide, neurolide-2, reduces sociability and increase animal aggression. We hypothesized that interfering with NL1 function at the excitatory synapses might regulate synaptic plasticity and learning, and counteract memory deficits induced by N-methyl-d-aspartate (NMDA) receptor inhibition. First, neuronal NMDA receptor phosphorylation after treatment with NL1 or a mimetic peptide, neurolide-1, was quantified by immunoblotting. Subsequently, we investigated effects of neurolide-1 on long-term potentiation (LTP) induction in hippocampal slices compromised by NMDA receptor inhibitor MK-801. Finally, we investigated neurolide-1 effects on short- and long-term social and spatial memory in social recognition, Morris water-maze, and Y-maze tests. We found that subcutaneous neurolide-1 administration, restored hippocampal LTP compromised by NMDA receptor inhibitor MK-801. It counteracted MK-801-induced memory deficit in the water-maze and Y-maze tests after long-term treatment (24 h and 1–2 h before the test), but not after short-term exposure (1–2 h). Long-term exposure to neurolide-1 also facilitated social recognition memory. In addition, neurolide-1-induced phosphorylation of the NMDA receptor NR1 subunit on a site important for synaptic trafficking, potentially favoring synaptic receptor retention. Our findings emphasize the role of NL1–NMDA receptor interaction in cognition, and identify neurolide-1, as a valuable pharmacological tool to examine the in vivo role of postsynaptic NL1 in cognitive behavior in physiological and pathological conditions.
PMCID: PMC4448987  PMID: 26038702
Learning and memory; LTP; MK-801; neuroligin; NMDA receptor
12.  N-Methyl-d-Aspartate and TrkB Receptors Protect Neurons Against Glutamate Excitotoxicity Through an Extracellular Signal-Regulated Kinase Pathway 
Journal of neuroscience research  2005;80(1):104-113.
N-Methyl-d-aspartate (NMDA) at a subtoxic concentration (100 μM) promotes neuronal survival against glutamate-mediated excitotoxicity via a brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) autocrine loop in cultured cerebellar granule cells. The signal transduction mechanism(s) underlying NMDA neuroprotection, however, remains elusive. The mitogen-activated protein kinase (MAPK) and phosphatidylinositol-3 kinase (PI3-K) pathways alter gene expression and are involved in synaptic plasticity and neuronal survival. This study tested whether neuroprotective activation of NMDA receptors, together with TrkB receptors, coactivated the MAPK or PI3-K pathways to protect rat cerebellar neurons. NMDA receptor activation caused a concentration- and time-dependent activation of MAPK lasting 24 hr. This activation was blocked by the NMDA receptor antagonist MK-801 but was attenuated only partially by the tyrosine kinase inhibitor k252a, suggesting that activation of both NMDA and TrkB receptors are required for maximal neuroprotection. The MAPK kinase (MEK) inhibitor U0126 (10 μM) partially blocked NMDA neuroprotection, whereas LY294002, a selective inhibitor of the PI3-K pathway, did not affect the neuroprotective activity of NMDA. Glutamate excitotoxicity decreased bcl-2, bcl-XL, and bax mRNA levels,. NMDA increases Bcl-2 and Bcl-XL protein levels and decreases Bax protein levels. NMDA and TrkB receptor activation thus converge on the extracellular signal-regulated kinase (ERK) 1/2 signaling pathway to protect neurons against glutamate-mediated excitotoxicity. By increasing antiapoptotic proteins of the Bcl-2 family, NMDA receptor activation may also promote neuronal survival by preventing apoptosis. © 2005 Wiley-Liss, Inc.
PMCID: PMC2855499  PMID: 15744743
NMDA; cerebellar granule cells; TrkB receptors; MAPK; Akt; BDNF; excitotoxicity; glutamate; Bcl-2; Bcl-XL; Bax
13.  TNFα-induced neutral sphingomyelinase-2 modulates synaptic plasticity by controlling the membrane insertion of NMDA receptors 
Journal of neurochemistry  2009;109(5):1237-1249.
The insertion and removal of N-methyl D-aspartate (NMDA) receptors from the synapse are critical events that modulate synaptic plasticity. While a great deal of progress has been made on understanding the mechanisms that modulate trafficking of NMDA receptors, we do not currently understand the molecular events required for the fusion of receptor containing vesicles with the plasma membrane. Here we show that sphingomyelin phosphodiesterase3 (also known as neutral sphingomyelinase-2; nSMase2) is critical for TNFα-induced trafficking of NMDA receptors and synaptic plasticity. TNFα initiated a rapid increase in ceramide that was associated with increased surface localization of NMDA receptor NR1 subunits and a specific clustering of NR1 phosphorylated on serines 896 and 897 into lipid rafts. Brief applications of TNFα increased the rate and amplitude of NMDA-evoked calcium bursts and enhanced excitatory postsynaptic currents (EPSCs). Pharmacological inhibition or genetic mutation of nSMase2 prevented TNFα-induced generation of ceramide, phosphorylation of NR1 subuints, clustering of NR1, enhancement of NMDA-evoked calcium flux and EPSCs.
PMCID: PMC2688711  PMID: 19476542
14.  The Effects of NR2 Subunit-Dependent NMDA Receptor Kinetics on Synaptic Transmission and CaMKII Activation 
PLoS Computational Biology  2008;4(10):e1000208.
N-Methyl-d-aspartic acid (NMDA) receptors are widely expressed in the brain and are critical for many forms of synaptic plasticity. Subtypes of the NMDA receptor NR2 subunit are differentially expressed during development; in the forebrain, the NR2B receptor is dominant early in development, and later both NR2A and NR2B are expressed. In heterologous expression systems, NR2A-containing receptors open more reliably and show much faster opening and closing kinetics than do NR2B-containing receptors. However, conflicting data, showing similar open probabilities, exist for receptors expressed in neurons. Similarly, studies of synaptic plasticity have produced divergent results, with some showing that only NR2A-containing receptors can drive long-term potentiation and others showing that either subtype is capable of driving potentiation. In order to address these conflicting results as well as open questions about the number and location of functional receptors in the synapse, we constructed a Monte Carlo model of glutamate release, diffusion, and binding to NMDA receptors and of receptor opening and closing as well as a model of the activation of calcium-calmodulin kinase II, an enzyme critical for induction of synaptic plasticity, by NMDA receptor-mediated calcium influx. Our results suggest that the conflicting data concerning receptor open probabilities can be resolved, with NR2A- and NR2B-containing receptors having very different opening probabilities. They also support the conclusion that receptors containing either subtype can drive long-term potentiation. We also are able to estimate the number of functional receptors at a synapse from experimental data. Finally, in our models, the opening of NR2B-containing receptors is highly dependent on the location of the receptor relative to the site of glutamate release whereas the opening of NR2A-containing receptors is not. These results help to clarify the previous findings and suggest future experiments to address open questions concerning NMDA receptor function.
Author Summary
Information processing in the brain is carried out by networks of neurons connected by synapses. Synapses can change strength, allowing these networks to adapt and learn, in a process known as synaptic plasticity. At a synapse, an electrical signal in one neuron is converted into a chemical signal, carried by a neurotransmitter, which is in turn converted into electrical and chemical signals in another neuron by specialized proteins called receptors. One such protein, the N-methyl-d-aspartic acid (NMDA) receptor, is particularly important for plasticity, due to its ability to detect the voltage of the cell receiving the neurotransmitter signal and to the fact that it allows calcium, an important signaling molecule, to enter the cell. Here we use computational modeling to investigate the role of one part of the NMDA receptor: the NR2 subunit. The subunit has various forms, and which of these forms are present in the NMDA receptor can strongly affect the kinetics and other properties of the receptor. We show that, along with changing the kinetics of the receptor, changing the NR2 subunit affects the reliability of the receptor, its ability to respond to large stimuli, and its spatial response properties. These results have implications for synaptic transmission and plasticity.
PMCID: PMC2563690  PMID: 18974824
15.  Dissecting the Contribution of Individual Receptor Subunits to the Enhancement of N-methyl-d-Aspartate Currents by Dopamine D1 Receptor Activation in Striatum 
Dopamine, via activation of D1 receptors, enhances N-methyl-d-aspartate (NMDA) receptor-mediated responses in striatal medium-sized spiny neurons. However, the role of specific NMDA receptor subunits in this enhancement remains unknown. Here we used genetic and pharmacological tools to dissect the contribution of NR1 and NR2A/B subunits to NMDA responses and their modulation by dopamine receptors. We demonstrate that D1 enhancement of NMDA responses does not occur or is significantly reduced in mice with genetic knock-down of NR1 subunits, indicating a critical role of these subunits. Interestingly, spontaneous and evoked α-amino-3-hydroxyl-5-methyl-4-isoxazole-propionic acid (AMPA) receptor-mediated responses were significantly enhanced in NR1 knock-down animals, probably as a compensatory mechanism for the marked reduction in NMDA receptor function. The NMDA receptor subunits NR2A and NR2B played differential roles in D1 modulation. Whereas genetic deletion or pharmacological blockade of NR2A subunits enhanced D1 potentiation of NMDA responses, blockade of NR2B subunits reduced this potentiation, suggesting that these regulatory subunits of the NMDA receptor counterbalance their respective functions. In addition, using D1 and D2 receptor EGFP-expressing mice, we demonstrate that NR2A subunits contribute more to NMDA responses in D1-MSSNs, whereas NR2B subunits contribute more to NMDA responses in D2 cells. The differential contribution of discrete receptor subunits to NMDA responses and dopamine modulation in the striatum has important implications for synaptic plasticity and selective neuronal vulnerability in disease states.
PMCID: PMC3095815  PMID: 21617735
NMDA; dopamine; receptor subunits; modulation; striatum
16.  A quantitative method to assess extrasynaptic NMDA receptor function in the protective effect of synaptic activity against neurotoxicity 
BMC Neuroscience  2008;9:11.
Extrasynaptic NMDA receptors couple to a CREB shut-off pathway and cause cell death, whereas synaptic NMDA receptors and nuclear calcium signaling promote CREB-mediated transcription and neuronal survival. The distribution of NMDA receptors (synaptic versus extrasynaptic) may be an important parameter that determines the susceptibility of neurons to toxic insults. Changes in receptor surface expression towards more extrasynaptic NMDA receptors may lead to neurodegeneration, whereas a reduction of extrasynaptic NMDA receptors may render neurons more resistant to death. A quantitative assessment of extrasynaptic NMDA receptors in individual neurons is needed in order to investigate the role of NMDA receptor distribution in neuronal survival and death.
Here we refined and verified a protocol previously used to isolate the effects of extrasynaptic NMDA receptors using the NMDA receptor open channel blocker, MK-801. Using this method we investigated the possibility that the known neuroprotective shield built up in hippocampal neurons after a period of action potential bursting and stimulation of synaptic NMDA receptors is due to signal-induced trafficking of extrasynaptic NMDA receptors or a reduction in extrasynaptic NMDA receptor function. We found that extrasynaptic NMDA receptor-mediated calcium responses and whole cell currents recorded under voltage clamp were surprisingly invariable and did not change even after prolonged (16 to 24 hours) periods of bursting and synaptic NMDA receptor activation. Averaging a large number of calcium imaging traces yielded a small (6%) reduction of extrasynaptic NMDA receptor-mediated responses in hippocampal neurons that were pretreated with prolonged bursting.
The slight reduction in extrasynaptic NMDA receptor function following action potential bursting and synaptic NMDA receptor stimulation could contribute to but is unlikely to fully account for activity-dependent neuroprotection. Other factors, in particular calcium signaling to the nucleus and the induction of survival promoting genes are more likely to mediate acquired neuroprotection.
PMCID: PMC2267199  PMID: 18218077
17.  Activation of EphA Receptors Mediates the Recruitment of the Adaptor Protein Slap, Contributing to the Downregulation of N-Methyl-d-Aspartate Receptors 
Molecular and Cellular Biology  2013;33(7):1442-1455.
Regulation of the activity of N-methyl-d-aspartate receptors (NMDARs) at glutamatergic synapses is essential for certain forms of synaptic plasticity underlying learning and memory and is also associated with neurotoxicity and neurodegenerative diseases. In this report, we investigate the role of Src-like adaptor protein (Slap) in NMDA receptor signaling. We present data showing that in dissociated neuronal cultures, activation of ephrin (Eph) receptors by chimeric preclustered eph-Fc ligands leads to recruitment of Slap and NMDA receptors at the sites of Eph receptor activation. Interestingly, our data suggest that prolonged activation of EphA receptors is as efficient in recruiting Slap and NMDA receptors as prolonged activation of EphB receptors. Using established heterologous systems, we examined whether Slap is an integral part of NMDA receptor signaling. Our results showed that Slap does not alter baseline activity of NMDA receptors and does not affect Src-dependent potentiation of NMDA receptor currents in Xenopus oocytes. We also demonstrate that Slap reduces excitotoxic cell death triggered by activation of NMDARs in HEK293 cells. Finally, we present evidence showing reduced levels of NMDA receptors in the presence of Slap occurring in an activity-dependent manner, suggesting that Slap is part of a mechanism that homeostatically modulates the levels of NMDA receptors.
PMCID: PMC3624273  PMID: 23382070
18.  Downregulation of Src-kinase and glutamate-receptor phosphorylation after traumatic brain injury 
Phosphorylation of N-methyl-D-aspartate (NMDA) receptors is a major regulatory mechanism underlying synaptic plasticity. However, changes in NMDA receptors and phosphorylation after traumatic brain injury (TBI) remain incompletely understood. Using an animal TBI model, we observed that the protein level of NMDA receptor subunit NR2B was downregulated in synaptosomal fractions obtained from the ipsilateral neocortical injury region, whereas the levels of NR2A, NR1, and PSD93 were not significantly altered at 4 and 24 hours after TBI. Further investigation showed that tyrosine phosphorylations of NR2B Y1472 and PSD93 Y340 in synaptosomal fractions were significantly decreased relative to their total protein level after TBI. Correspondingly, phosphorylation of the Src-kinase-inhibitory site Y527 was increased, whereas phosphorylation of the activation site Y416 was decreased, indicating that the activity of Src kinase is significantly inhibited after TBI. In comparison, other Src family kinase substrates of NMDA receptor, NR2A Y1246, NR2A Y1325, and NR2B Y1070 were not obviously affected after TBI. The results suggest that TBI downregulates the Src-kinase-mediated phosphorylation of NR2 and PSD93 to destabilize the synaptic localization of NMDA receptors. Therefore, post-TBI loss of NMDA receptors may contribute to the depression of synaptic activity after TBI.
PMCID: PMC3790935  PMID: 23838828
NMDA receptor; PSD93; Src family kinases; traumatic brain injury; tyrosine phosphorylation
19.  The glutamate story 
British Journal of Pharmacology  2006;147(Suppl 1):S100-S108.
Glutamatergic synaptic transmission in the mammalian central nervous system was slowly established over a period of some 20 years, dating from the 1950s. Realisation that glutamate and like amino acids (collectively known as excitatory amino acids (EAA)) mediated their excitatory actions via multiple receptors preceded establishment of these receptors as synaptic transmitter receptors. EAA receptors were initially classified as N-methyl-D-aspartate (NMDA) and non-NMDA receptors, the latter subdivided into quisqualate (later AMPA) and kainate receptors after agonists that appeared to activate these receptors preferentially, and by their sensitivity to a range of differentially acting antagonists developed progressively during the 1970s. NMDA receptors were definitively shown to be synaptic receptors on spinal neurones by the sensitivity of certain excitatory pathways in the spinal cord to a range of specific NMDA receptor antagonists. Importantly, specific NMDA receptor antagonists appeared to be less effective at synapses in higher centres. In contrast, antagonists that also blocked non-NMDA as well as NMDA receptors were almost universally effective at blocking synaptic excitation within the brain and spinal cord, establishing both the existence and ubiquity of non-NMDA synaptic receptor systems throughout the CNS. In the early 1980s, NMDA receptors were shown to be involved in several central synaptic pathways, acting in concert with non-NMDA receptors under conditions where a protracted excitatory postsynaptic potential was effected in response to intense stimulation of presynaptic fibres. Such activation of NMDA receptors together with non-NMDA receptors led to the phenomenon of long-term potentiation (LTP), associated with lasting changes in synaptic efficacy (synaptic plasticity) and considered to be an important process in memory and learning. During the 1980s, it was shown that certain glutamate receptors in the brain mediated biochemical changes that were not susceptible to NMDA or non-NMDA receptor antagonists. This dichotomy was resolved in the early 1990s by the techniques of molecular biology, which identified two families of glutamate-binding receptor proteins (ionotropic (iGlu) and metabotropic (mGlu) receptors). Development of antagonists binding to specific protein subunits is currently enabling precise identification of discrete iGlu or mGlu receptor subtypes that participate in a range of central synaptic processes, including synaptic plasticity.
PMCID: PMC1760733  PMID: 16402093
L-Glutamate; excitatory amino acids; ionotropic glutamate receptors; metabotropic glutamate receptors; synaptic transmission
20.  Double Dissociation of Spike Timing–Dependent Potentiation and Depression by Subunit-Preferring NMDA Receptor Antagonists in Mouse Barrel Cortex 
Cerebral Cortex (New York, NY)  2009;19(12):2959-2969.
Spike timing–dependent plasticity (STDP) is a strong candidate for an N-methyl-D-aspartate (NMDA) receptor-dependent form of synaptic plasticity that could underlie the development of receptive field properties in sensory neocortices. Whilst induction of timing-dependent long-term potentiation (t-LTP) requires postsynaptic NMDA receptors, timing-dependent long-term depression (t-LTD) requires the activation of presynaptic NMDA receptors at layer 4-to-layer 2/3 synapses in barrel cortex. Here we investigated the developmental profile of t-LTD at layer 4-to-layer 2/3 synapses of mouse barrel cortex and studied their NMDA receptor subunit dependence. Timing-dependent LTD emerged in the first postnatal week, was present during the second week and disappeared in the adult, whereas t-LTP persisted in adulthood. An antagonist at GluN2C/D subunit–containing NMDA receptors blocked t-LTD but not t-LTP. Conversely, a GluN2A subunit–preferring antagonist blocked t-LTP but not t-LTD. The GluN2C/D subunit requirement for t-LTD appears to be synapse specific, as GluN2C/D antagonists did not block t-LTD at horizontal cross-columnar layer 2/3-to-layer 2/3 synapses, which was blocked by a GluN2B antagonist instead. These data demonstrate an NMDA receptor subunit-dependent double dissociation of t-LTD and t-LTP mechanisms at layer 4-to-layer 2/3 synapses, and suggest that t-LTD is mediated by distinct molecular mechanisms at different synapses on the same postsynaptic neuron.
PMCID: PMC2774397  PMID: 19363149
development; LTD; LTP; rodent; synaptic plasticity
21.  Inhibition of glutamate transporters couples to Kv4.2 dephosphorylation through activation of extrasynaptic NMDA receptors 
Neuroscience  2009;165(1):130-137.
Activation of glutamate receptors is known to modulate K+ channel surface trafficking, phosphorylation, and function, and increasing evidence has implicated K+ channels in plastic changes in glutamatergic synapses. Kv4.2 channels control the amplitude of back-propagating action potentials and shape postsynaptic responses in hippocampus, and synaptic glutamate receptor activation leads to increased phosphorylation of Kv4.2 channels that is associated with enhanced synaptic plasticity. Thus, we investigated the possibility that activation of extrasynaptic NMDA-type glutamate receptors couples to Kv4.2 channel dephosphorylation. In hippocampal neurons, we found that selective activation of extrasynaptic NMDA receptors dephosphorylates Kv4.2 channels, and driving synaptic activity increases phosphorylation of Kv4.2. We also observed that Ca2+ entry through NMDA receptors is necessary for dephosphorylation of Kv4.2 channels. Consistent with a synaptic and extrasynaptic localization at hippocampal synapses, a fraction of Kv4.2 channel clusters was found to localize outside of pre- and postsynaptic markers. Excitatory amino acid transporters (EAATs) regulate ambient extracellular glutamate levels that active extrasynaptic NMDA receptors, and inhibition of glutamate uptake by blocking EAATs with the non-selective transporter inhibitor TBOA or the EAAT1/3 selective inhibitor SOS dephosphorylates Kv4.2 channels. These findings in conjunction with previous reports support the interesting possibility that synaptic and extrasynaptic NMDA receptors bi-directionally regulate phosphorylation levels of Kv4.2 channels in hippocampus. Moreover, we observed that EAAT activity controls extrasynaptic NMDA receptor modulation of Kv4.2 channel dephosphorylation.
PMCID: PMC2787836  PMID: 19850106
Hippocampus; A-type K+ channels; Excitatory amino acid transporters
22.  Acute 5-HT7 receptor activation increases NMDA-evoked currents and differentially alters NMDA receptor subunit phosphorylation and trafficking in hippocampal neurons 
Molecular Brain  2013;6:24.
N-methyl-D-aspartate (NMDA) receptors are regulated by several G protein-coupled receptors (GPCRs) as well as receptor tyrosine kinases. Serotonin (5-HT) type 7 receptors are expressed throughout the brain including the thalamus and hippocampus. Long-term (2–24 h) activation of 5-HT7 receptors promotes the expression of neuroprotective growth factor receptors, including the platelet-derived growth factor (PDGF) β receptors which can protect neurons against NMDA-induced neurotoxicity.
In contrast to long-term activation of 5-HT7 receptors, acute (5 min) treatment of isolated hippocampal neurons with the 5-HT7 receptor agonist 5-carboxamidotryptamine (5-CT) enhances NMDA-evoked peak currents and this increase in peak currents is blocked by the 5-HT7 receptor antagonist, SB 269970. In hippocampal slices, acute 5-HT7 receptor activation increases NR1 NMDA receptor subunit phosphorylation and differentially alters the phosphorylation state of the NR2B and NR2A subunits. NMDA receptor subunit cell surface expression is also differentially altered by 5-HT7 receptor agonists: NR2B cell surface expression is decreased whereas NR1 and NR2A surface expression are not significantly altered.
In contrast to the negative regulatory effects of long-term activation of 5-HT7 receptors on NMDA receptor signaling, acute activation of 5-HT7 receptors promotes NMDA receptor activity. These findings highlight the potential for temporally differential regulation of NMDA receptors by the 5-HT7 receptor.
PMCID: PMC3661375  PMID: 23672716
5-HT7; NMDA; Hippocampus; Isolated neurons; Phosphorylation; Trafficking
23.  GluN2B-containing NMDA receptors regulate depression-like behavior and are critical for the rapid antidepressant actions of ketamine 
eLife  null;3:e03581.
A single, low dose of the NMDA receptor antagonist ketamine produces rapid antidepressant actions in treatment-resistant depressed patients. Understanding the cellular mechanisms underlying this will lead to new therapies for treating major depression. NMDARs are heteromultimeric complexes formed through association of two GluN1 and two GluN2 subunits. We show that in vivo deletion of GluN2B, only from principal cortical neurons, mimics and occludes ketamine's actions on depression-like behavior and excitatory synaptic transmission. Furthermore, ketamine-induced increases in mTOR activation and synaptic protein synthesis were mimicked and occluded in 2BΔCtx mice. We show here that cortical GluN2B-containing NMDARs are uniquely activated by ambient glutamate to regulate levels of excitatory synaptic transmission. Together these data predict a novel cellular mechanism that explains ketamine's rapid antidepressant actions. In this model, basal glutamatergic neurotransmission sensed by cortical GluN2B-containing NMDARs regulates excitatory synaptic strength in PFC determining basal levels of depression-like behavior.
eLife digest
Depression is the leading cause of disability worldwide, with hundreds of millions of people living with the condition. The ‘gold standard’ for depression treatment involves a combination of psychotherapy and medication. Unfortunately, current antidepressant medications do not help everyone, waiting lists for psychotherapy are often long, and both normally take a number of weeks of regular treatment before they begin to have an effect. As patients are often at a high risk of suicide, it is crucial that treatments that act more quickly, and that are safe and effective, are developed.
One substance that may fulfill these requirements is a drug called ketamine. Studies have shown that depression symptoms can be reduced within hours by a single low dose of ketamine, and this effect on mood can last for more than a week. However, progress has been hindered by a lack of knowledge about what ketamine actually does inside the brain.
Neurons communicate with one another by releasing chemicals known as neurotransmitters, which transfer information by binding to receptor proteins on the surface of other neurons. Drugs such as ketamine also bind to these receptors. Ketamine works by blocking a specific receptor called the n-methyl d-aspartate (NMDA) receptor, but how this produces antidepressant effects is not fully understood.
The NMDA receptor is actually formed from a combination of individual protein subunits, including one called GluN2B. Now Miller, Yang et al. have created mice that lack receptors containing these GluN2B subunits in neurons in their neocortex, including the prefrontal cortex, a brain region involved in complex mental processes such as decision-making. This allowed Miller, Yang et al. to discover that when the neurotransmitter glutamate binds to GluN2B-containing NMDA receptors, it limits the production of certain proteins that make it easier for signals to be transmitted between neurons. Suppressing the synthesis of these proteins too much may cause depressive effects by reducing communication between the neurons in the prefrontal cortex.
Both mice lacking GluN2B-containing receptors in their cortical neurons and normal mice treated with ketamine showed a reduced amount of depressive-like behavior. This evidence supports Miller, Yang et al.'s theory that by blocking these NMDA receptors, ketamine restricts their activation. This restores normal levels of protein synthesis, improves communication between neurons in the cortex, and reduces depression.
Understanding how ketamine works to alleviate depression is an important step towards developing it into a safe and effective treatment. Further research is also required to determine the conditions that cause overactivation of the GluN2B-containing NMDA receptors.
PMCID: PMC4270067  PMID: 25340958
depression; cortex; synapse; ketamine; electrophysiology; protein synthesis; mouse; rat
24.  H-Ras Modulates N-Methyl-d-aspartate Receptor Function via Inhibition of Src Tyrosine Kinase Activity* 
The Journal of biological chemistry  2003;278(26):23823-23829.
Tyrosine phosphorylation of the NR2A and NR2B subunits of the N-methyl-d-aspartate (NMDA) receptor by Src protein-tyrosine kinases modulates receptor channel activity and is necessary for the induction of long term potentiation (LTP). Deletion of H-Ras increases both NR2 tyrosine phosphorylation and NMDA receptor-mediated hippocampal LTP. Here we investigated whether H-Ras regulates phosphorylation and function of the NMDA receptor via Src family protein-tyrosine kinases. We identified Src as a novel H-Ras binding partner. H-Ras bound to Src but not Fyn both in vitro and in brain via the Src kinase domain. Cotransfection of H-Ras and Src inhibited Src activity and decreased NR2A tyrosine phosphorylation. Treatment of rat brain slices with Tat-H-Ras depleted NR2A from the synaptic membrane, decreased endogenous Src activity and NR2A phosphorylation, and decreased the magnitude of hip-pocampal LTP. No change was observed for NR2B. We suggest that H-Ras negatively regulates Src phosphorylation of NR2A and retention of NR2A into the synaptic membrane leading to inhibition of NMDA receptor function. This mechanism is specific for Src and NR2A and has implications for studies in which regulation of NMDA receptor-mediated LTP is important, such as synaptic plasticity, learning, and memory and addiction.
PMCID: PMC1196389  PMID: 12695509
25.  The Effects of NMDA Subunit Composition on Calcium Influx and Spike Timing-Dependent Plasticity in Striatal Medium Spiny Neurons 
PLoS Computational Biology  2012;8(4):e1002493.
Calcium through NMDA receptors (NMDARs) is necessary for the long-term potentiation (LTP) of synaptic strength; however, NMDARs differ in several properties that can influence the amount of calcium influx into the spine. These properties, such as sensitivity to magnesium block and conductance decay kinetics, change the receptor's response to spike timing dependent plasticity (STDP) protocols, and thereby shape synaptic integration and information processing. This study investigates the role of GluN2 subunit differences on spine calcium concentration during several STDP protocols in a model of a striatal medium spiny projection neuron (MSPN). The multi-compartment, multi-channel model exhibits firing frequency, spike width, and latency to first spike similar to current clamp data from mouse dorsal striatum MSPN. We find that NMDAR-mediated calcium is dependent on GluN2 subunit type, action potential timing, duration of somatic depolarization, and number of action potentials. Furthermore, the model demonstrates that in MSPNs, GluN2A and GluN2B control which STDP intervals allow for substantial calcium elevation in spines. The model predicts that blocking GluN2B subunits would modulate the range of intervals that cause long term potentiation. We confirmed this prediction experimentally, demonstrating that blocking GluN2B in the striatum, narrows the range of STDP intervals that cause long term potentiation. This ability of the GluN2 subunit to modulate the shape of the STDP curve could underlie the role that GluN2 subunits play in learning and development.
Author Summary
The striatum of the basal ganglia plays a key role in fluent motor control; pathology in this structure causes the motor symptoms of Parkinson's Disease and Huntington's Chorea. A putative cellular mechanism underlying learning of motor control is synaptic plasticity, which is an activity dependent change in synaptic strength. A known mediator of synaptic potentiation is calcium influx through the NMDA-type glutamate receptor. The NMDA receptor is sensitive to the timing of neuronal activity, allowing calcium influx only when glutamate release and a post-synaptic depolarization coincide temporally. The NMDA receptor is comprised of specific subunits that modify its sensitivity to neuronal activity and these subunits are altered in animal models of Parkinson's disease. Here we use a multi-compartmental model of a striatal neuron to investigate the effect of different NMDA subunits on calcium influx through the NMDA receptor. Simulations show that the subunit composition changes the temporal intervals that allow coincidence detection and strong calcium influx. Our experiments manipulating the dominate subunit in brain slices show that the subunit effect on calcium influx predicted by our computational model is mirrored by a change in the amount of potentiation that occurs in our experimental preparation.
PMCID: PMC3334887  PMID: 22536151

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