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1.  Dynamic Loss of Surface-Expressed AMPA Receptors in Mouse Cortical and Striatal Neurons During Anesthesia 
Journal of neuroscience research  2011;90(1):315-323.
Ionotropic glutamate receptors, especially the α-amino-3-hydroxy-5-methylisoxazole-4-propionic acid (AMPA) receptor subtype, undergo dynamic trafficking between the surface membrane and intracellular organelles. This trafficking activity determines the efficacy and strength of excitatory synapses and is subject to modulation by changing synaptic inputs. Given the possibility that glutamate receptors in the central nervous system might be a sensitive target of anesthetic agents, this study investigated the possible impact of anesthesia on trafficking and subcellular expression of AMPA receptors in adult mouse brain neurons in vivo. We found that anesthesia induced by a systemic injection of pentobarbital did not alter total protein levels of three AMPA receptor subunits (GluR1–3) in cortical neurons. However, an anesthetic dose of pentobarbital reduced GluR1 and GluR3 proteins in the surface pool and elevated these proteins in the intracellular pool of cortical neurons. The similar redistribution of GluR1/3 was observed in mouse striatal neurons. Pentobarbital did not significantly alter GluR2 expression in the two pools. Chloral hydrate at an anesthetic dose also reduced surface GluR1/3 expression and increased intracellular levels of these proteins. The effect of pentobarbital on subcellular distribution of AMPA receptors was reversible. Altered subcellular distribution of GluR1/3 returned to normal levels after the anesthesia subsided. These data indicate that anesthesia induced by pentobarbital and chloral hydrate can alter AMPA receptor trafficking in both cortical and striatal neurons. This alteration is characterized by the concurrent loss and addition of GluR1/3 subunits in the respective surface and intracellular pools.
PMCID: PMC3218204  PMID: 21932367
pentobarbital; chloral hydrate; glutamate; GluR1; GluR3; trafficking
2.  Differential Effects of Anaesthesia on the phMRI Response to Acute Ketamine Challenge 
Pharmacological-challenge magnetic resonance imaging (phMRI) is powerful new tool enabling researchers to map the central effects of neuroactive drugs in vivo. To employ this technique pre-clinically, head movements and the stress of restraint are usually reduced by maintaining animals under general anaesthesia. However, interactions between the drug of interest and the anaesthetic employed may potentially confound data interpretation. NMDA receptor (NMDAR) antagonists used widely to mimic schizophrenia have recently been shown to interact with the anaesthetic halothane. It may be the case that neural and cerebrovascular responses to NMDAR antagonists are dependent on the types of anaesthetic used.
We compared the phMRI response to NMDAR antagonist ketamine in rats maintained under α-chloralose to those under isoflurane anaesthesia. A randomized placebo/vehicle controlled design was used in each of the anaesthetic groups.
Changes in the anaesthetic agent resulted in two very different profiles of activity. In the case of α-chloralose, positive activations in cortical and sub-cortical structures reflected a response which was similar to patterns seen in healthy human volunteers and metabolic maps of conscious rats. However, the use of isoflurane completely reversed such effects, causing widespread deactivations in the cortex and hippocampus.
This study provides initial evidence for a drug-anesthetic interaction between ketamine and isoflurane that is very different from responses to α-chloralose-ketamine.
PMCID: PMC3378209  PMID: 22737655
Anaesthesia; anesthesia; NMDA; ketamine; schizophrenia; α-chloralose; isoflurane; phMRI; fMRI; BOLD; rat
3.  NMDA receptor signaling: death or survival? 
Frontiers in biology  2011;6(6):468-476.
Glutamate-induced neuronal damage is mainly caused by overactivation of N-methyl-D-aspartate (NMDA) receptors. Conversely, normal physiological brain function and neuronal survival require adequate activation of NMDA receptors. Studies have revealed that NMDA receptor-induced neuronal death or survival is mediated through distinct subset of NMDA receptors triggering different intracellular signaling pathways. Here we discuss recent advances in the characterization of NMDA receptors in neuronal protection, emphasizing subunit-specific role, which contributes to temporal-spatial distribution, subcellular localization and diverse channel properties of NMDA receptors.
PMCID: PMC3491906  PMID: 23144645
NMDA receptors; glutamate; excitotoxicity; ischemia; neuroprotection
4.  Metabotropic Glutamate Receptors in the Trafficking of Ionotropic Glutamate and GABAA Receptors at Central Synapses 
Current Neuropharmacology  2006;4(1):77-86.
The trafficking of ionotropic glutamate (AMPA, NMDA and kainate) and GABAA receptors in and out of, or laterally along, the postsynaptic membrane has recently emerged as an important mechanism in the regulation of synaptic function, both under physiological and pathological conditions, such as information processing, learning and memory formation, neuronal development, and neurodegenerative diseases. Non-ionotropic glutamate receptors, primarily group I metabotropic glutamate receptors (mGluRs), co-exist with the postsynaptic ionotropic glutamate and GABAA receptors. The ability of mGluRs to regulate postsynaptic phosphorylation and Ca2+ concentration, as well as their interactions with postsynaptic scaffolding/signaling proteins, makes them well suited to influence the trafficking of ionotropic glutamate and GABAA receptors. Recent studies have provided insights into how mGluRs may impose such an influence at central synapses, and thus how they may affect synaptic signaling and the maintenance of long-term synaptic plasticity. In this review we will discuss some of the recent progress in this area: i) long-term synaptic plasticity and the involvement of mGluRs; ii) ionotropic glutamate receptor trafficking and long-term synaptic plasticity; iii) the involvement of postsynaptic group I mGluRs in regulating ionotropic glutamate receptor trafficking; iv) involvement of postsynaptic group I mGluRs in regulating GABAA receptor trafficking; v) and the trafficking of postsynaptic group I mGluRs themselves.
PMCID: PMC2430676  PMID: 18615134
Metabotropic; ionotropic; glutamate receptor; GABAA receptor; receptor trafficking; endocytosis; hippocampus; synaptic plasticity
5.  Glutamate receptor functions in sensory relay in the thalamus. 
It is known that glutamate is a major excitatory transmitter of sensory and cortical afferents to the thalamus. These actions are mediated via several distinct receptors with postsynaptic excitatory effects predominantly mediated by ionotropic receptors of the alpha-amino-3-hydroxy-5-methyl-4-isoxazolepropionate (AMPA) and N-methyl-D-aspartate varieties (NMDA). However, there are also other kinds of glutamate receptor present in the thalamus, notably the metabotropic and kainate types, and these may have more complex or subtle roles in sensory transmission. This paper describes recent electrophysiological experiments done in vitro and in vivo which aim to determine how the metabotropic and kainate receptor types can influence transmission through the sensory thalamic relay. A particular focus will be how such mechanisms might operate under physiological conditions.
PMCID: PMC1693074  PMID: 12626010
6.  Glutamate Receptor Dynamics in Dendritic Microdomains 
Neuron  2008;58(4):472-497.
Among diverse factors regulating excitatory synaptic transmission, the abundance of postsynaptic glutamate receptors figures prominently in molecular memory and learning-related synaptic plasticity. To allow for both long-term maintenance of synaptic transmission and acute changes in synaptic strength, the relative rates of glutamate receptor insertion and removal must be tightly regulated. Interactions with scaffolding proteins control the targeting and signaling properties of glutamate receptors within the postsynaptic membrane. In addition, extrasynaptic receptor populations control the equilibrium of receptor exchange at synapses and activate distinct signaling pathways involved in plasticity. Here, we review recent findings that have shaped our current understanding of receptor mobility between synaptic and extrasynaptic compartments at glutamatergic synapses, focusing on AMPA and NMDA receptors. We also examine the cooperative relationship between intracellular trafficking and surface diffusion of glutamate receptors that underlies the expression of learning-related synaptic plasticity.
PMCID: PMC2572138  PMID: 18498731
7.  Opposite modulation of brain stimulation reward by NMDA and AMPA receptors in the ventral tegmental area 
Previous studies have shown that blockade of ventral tegmental area (VTA) glutamate N-Methyl-D-Aspartate (NMDA) receptors induces reward, stimulates forward locomotion and enhances brain stimulation reward. Glutamate induces two types of excitatory response on VTA neurons, a fast and short lasting depolarization mediated by α-amino-3-hydroxy-5-methyl-4-isoxazole propionate (AMPA) receptors and a longer lasting depolarization mediated by NMDA receptors. A role for the two glutamate receptors in modulation of VTA neuronal activity is evidenced by the functional change in AMPA and NMDA synaptic responses that result from repeated exposure to reward. Since both receptors contribute to the action of glutamate on VTA neuronal activity, we studied the effects of VTA AMPA and NMDA receptor blockade on reward induced by electrical brain stimulation. Experiments were performed on rats trained to self-administer electrical pulses in the medial posterior mesencephalon. Reward thresholds were measured with the curve-shift paradigm before and for 2 h after bilateral VTA microinjections of the AMPA antagonist, NBQX (2,3,-Dioxo-6-nitro-1,2,3,4-tetrahydrobenzo(f)quinoxaline-7-sulfonamide, 0, 80, and 800 pmol/0.5 μl/side) and of a single dose (0.825 nmol/0.5 μl/side) of the NMDA antagonist, PPPA (2R,4S)-4-(3-Phosphonopropyl)-2-piperidinecarboxylic acid). NBQX produced a dose-dependent increase in reward threshold with no significant change in maximum rate of responding. Whereas PPPA injected at the same VTA sites produced a significant time dependent decrease in reward threshold and increase in maximum rate of responding. We found a negative correlation between the magnitude of the attenuation effect of NBQX and the enhancement effect of PPPA; moreover, NBQX and PPPA were most effective when injected, respectively, into the anterior and posterior VTA. These results suggest that glutamate acts on different receptor sub-types, most likely located on different VTA neurons, to modulate reward.
PMCID: PMC3789217  PMID: 24106463
AMPA; glutamate; NMDA; reward; ventral midbrain
8.  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
9.  An analysis of the transitions between down and up states of the cortical slow oscillation under urethane anaesthesia 
Journal of Biological Physics  2009;36(3):245-259.
We study the dynamics of the transition between the low- and high-firing states of the cortical slow oscillation by using intracellular recordings of the membrane potential from cortical neurons of rats. We investigate the evidence for a bistability in assemblies of cortical neurons playing a major role in the maintenance of this oscillation. We show that the trajectory of a typical transition takes an approximately exponential form, equivalent to the response of a resistor–capacitor circuit to a step-change in input. The time constant for the transition is negatively correlated with the membrane potential of the low-firing state, and values are broadly equivalent to neural time constants measured elsewhere. Overall, the results do not strongly support the hypothesis of a bistability in cortical neurons; rather, they suggest the cortical manifestation of the oscillation is a result of a step-change in input to the cortical neurons. Since there is evidence from previous work that a phase transition exists, we speculate that the step-change may be a result of a bistability within other brain areas, such as the thalamus, or a bistability among only a small subset of cortical neurons, or as a result of more complicated brain dynamics.
PMCID: PMC2868977  PMID: 19960241
Cortex; Neurons; Slow wave sleep; Phase transition
10.  Sustained neuronal activity generated by glial plasticity 
Astrocytes release gliotransmitters, notably glutamate, that can affect neuronal and synaptic activity. In particular, astrocytic glutamate release results in the generation of N-methyl D-aspartate receptor (NMDA-R) mediated slow inward currents (SICs) in neurons. However, factors underlying the emergence of SICs, and their physiological roles are largely unknown. Here we show that, in acute slices of rat somatosensory thalamus, stimulation of Lemniscal or cortical afferents results in a sustained increase of SICs in thalamocortical (TC) neurons that outlasts the duration of the stimulus by an hour. This long term enhancement (LTE) of astrocytic glutamate release is induced by group I metabotropic glutamate receptors (mGluRs), and is dependent on astrocytic intracellular calcium ([Ca2+]i). Neuronal SICs are mediated by extrasynaptic NR2B subunit-containing NMDA-Rs and are capable of eliciting bursts. These are distinct from T-type Ca2+ channel dependent bursts of action potentials, and are synchronized in neighboring TC neurons. These findings describe a previously unrecognized form of excitatory, non-synaptic plasticity in the central nervous system (CNS) that feeds forward to generate local neuronal firing long after stimulus termination.
PMCID: PMC3118423  PMID: 21613477
11.  Coactivation of NMDA receptors by glutamate and -serine induces dilation of isolated middle cerebral arteries 
N-methyl--aspartate (NMDA) receptors are glutamate-gated cation channels that mediate excitatory neurotransmission in the central nervous system. In addition to glutamate, NMDA receptors are also activated by coagonist binding of the gliotransmitter, -serine. Neuronal NMDA receptors mediate activity-dependent blood flow regulation in the brain. Our objective was to determine whether NMDA receptors expressed by brain endothelial cells can induce vasodilation of isolated brain arteries. Adult mouse middle cerebral arteries (MCAs) were isolated, pressurized, and preconstricted with norepinephrine. N-methyl--aspartate receptor agonists, glutamate and NMDA, significantly dilated MCAs in a concentration-dependent manner in the presence of -serine but not alone. Dilation was significantly inhibited by NMDA receptor antagonists, -2-amino-5-phosphonopentanoate and 5,7-dichlorokynurenic acid, indicating a response dependent on NMDA receptor glutamate and -serine binding sites, respectively. Vasodilation was inhibited by denuding the endothelium and by selective inhibition or genetic knockout of endothelial nitric oxide synthase (eNOS). We also found evidence for expression of the pan-NMDA receptor subunit, NR1, in mouse primary brain endothelial cells, and for the NMDA receptor subunit NR2C in cortical arteries in situ. Overall, we conclude that NMDA receptor coactivation by glutamate and -serine increases lumen diameter in pressurized MCA in an endothelial and eNOS-dependent mechanism.
PMCID: PMC3293118  PMID: 22068228
-serine; eNOS; glutamate; middle cerebral artery; NMDA receptor; NR2C
12.  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
13.  Role of motor cortex NMDA receptors in learning-dependent synaptic plasticity of behaving mice 
Nature Communications  2013;4:2258.
The primary motor cortex has an important role in the precise execution of learned motor responses. During motor learning, synaptic efficacy between sensory and primary motor cortical neurons is enhanced, possibly involving long-term potentiation and N-methyl-D-aspartate (NMDA)-specific glutamate receptor function. To investigate whether NMDA receptor in the primary motor cortex can act as a coincidence detector for activity-dependent changes in synaptic strength and associative learning, here we generate mice with deletion of the Grin1 gene, encoding the essential NMDA receptor subunit 1 (GluN1), specifically in the primary motor cortex. The loss of NMDA receptor function impairs primary motor cortex long-term potentiation in vivo. Importantly, it impairs the synaptic efficacy between the primary somatosensory and primary motor cortices and significantly reduces classically conditioned eyeblink responses. Furthermore, compared with wild-type littermates, mice lacking primary motor cortex show slower learning in Skinner-box tasks. Thus, primary motor cortex NMDA receptors are necessary for activity-dependent synaptic strengthening and associative learning.
Motor cortex NMDA receptors have a key role in the acquisition of associative memories. Hasan et al. generate mice lacking NMDA receptor activity in the motor cortex and find that this impairs LTP, strengthening of synapses between somatosensory and motor cortices, and associative learning.
PMCID: PMC3759079  PMID: 23978820
14.  The Role of the Tripartite Glutamatergic Synapse in the Pathophysiology and Therapeutics of Mood Disorders 
Bipolar disorder (BPD) and major depressive disorder (MDD) are common, chronic, and recurrent mood disorders that affect the lives of millions of individuals worldwide. Growing evidence suggests that glutamatergic system dysfunction is directly involved in mood disorders. This article describes the role of the “tripartite glutamatergic synapse”, comprising presynaptic and postsynaptic neurons and glial cells, in the pathophysiology and therapeutics of mood disorders. Glutamatergic neurons and glia directly control synaptic and extrasynaptic glutamate levels/release through integrative effects that target glutamate excitatory amino-acid transporters, postsynaptic density proteins, ionotropic receptors (alpha-amino-3-hydroxy-5-methylisoxazole (AMPA), N-methyl-D-aspartate (NMDA), and kainate (KA)), and metabotropic receptors (mGluRs). This article also explores the glutamatergic modulators riluzole and ketamine, which are considered valuable proof of concept agents for developing the next generation of antidepressants and mood stabilizers. In therapeutically relevant paradigms, ketamine preferentially targets postsynaptic AMPA/NMDA receptors, and riluzole preferentially targets presynaptic voltage-operated channels and glia.
PMCID: PMC2762009  PMID: 19471044
15.  Palmitoylation-dependent regulation of glutamate receptors and their PDZ domain-containing partners 
Biochemical Society transactions  2013;41(1):10.1042/BST20120223.
In recent years, it has become clear that both AMPA (α-amino-3-hydroxy-5-methylisoxazole-4-propionic acid)- and NMDA (N-methyl-D-aspartate)-type glutamate receptors, and many of their interacting partners, are palmitoylated proteins. Interfering with palmitoylation dramatically affects receptor trafficking and distribution and, in turn, can profoundly alter synaptic transmission. Increased knowledge of synaptic palmitoylation not only will aid our understanding of physiological neuronal regulation, but also may provide insights into, and even novel treatments for, neuropathological conditions. In the present paper, we review recent advances regarding the regulation of ionotropic glutamate receptor trafficking and function by palmitoylation.
PMCID: PMC3829716  PMID: 23356261
α-amino-3-hydroxy-5-methylisoxazole-4-propionic acid receptor (AMPAR); glutamate receptor; N-methyl-D-aspartate receptor (NMDAR); palmitoylation; PDZ domain; synapse
16.  A Transmembrane Accessory Subunit that Modulates Kainate-Type Glutamate Receptors 
Neuron  2009;61(3):385-396.
Glutamate receptors play major roles in excitatory transmission in the vertebrate brain. Among ionotropic glutamate receptors (AMPA, kainate, NMDA), AMPA receptors mediate fast synaptic transmission and require TARP auxiliary subunits. NMDA receptors and kainate receptors play roles in synaptic transmission, but it remains uncertain whether these ionotropic glutamate receptors also have essential subunits. Using a proteomic screen, we have identified NETO2, a brain-specific protein of unknown function, as an interactor with kainate-type glutamate receptors. NETO2 modulates the channel properties of recombinant and native kainate receptors without affecting trafficking of the receptors and also modulates kainate-receptor-mediated mEPSCs. Furthermore, we found that kainate receptors regulate the surface expression of NETO2 and that NETO2 protein levels and surface expression are decreased in mice lacking the kainate receptor GluR6. The results show that NETO2 is a kainate receptor subunit with significant effects on glutamate signaling mechanisms in brain.
PMCID: PMC2803770  PMID: 19217376
17.  Changes in surface expression of N-methyl-D-aspartate receptors in the striatum in a rat model of Parkinson’s disease 
N-methyl-D-aspartate (NMDA) receptors play a central role in glutamatergic synaptic transmission in the mammalian brain and are linked to the pathophysiology and symptomatology of Parkinson’s disease (PD). However, changes in NMDA receptor expression in distinct subcellular compartments in PD have not been elucidated. In this study, we investigated changes in subcellular expression of NMDA receptors in striatal neurons in a rodent PD model.
Intracranial injection of the neurotoxin 6-hydroxydopamine (6-OHDA) was selectively lesioned into the nigrostriatal dopaminergic pathway in adult Sprague Dawley rats, which is a common rat model of PD. A surface receptor crosslinking assay was conducted to examine the response of individual NMDA receptor subunits to dopamine depletion in isolated and confined surface and intracellular compartments of striatal neurons.
In PD rats where 6-OHDA was selectively lesioned, surface expression of NMDA receptor GluN1 subunits as detected by surface protein crosslinking assays was increased in the striatum. In contrast, intracellular levels of GluN1 were decreased in the lesioned region. The NMDA receptor GluN2B subunit was elevated in its abundance in the surface pool of the lesioned striatum, while intracellular GluN2B levels were not altered. GluN2A subunits in both surface and intracellular fractions remained stable. In addition, total cellular levels of striatal GluN1 and GluN2A were not changed in lesioned tissue, while total GluN2B proteins showed an increase.
These results demonstrate the differential sensitivity of principal NMDA receptor subunits to dopamine depletion. GluN1 and GluN2B expression in the distinct surface compartment underwent upregulation in striatal neurons after selective lesions of the dopaminergic pathway by 6-OHDA.
PMCID: PMC3900317  PMID: 24465126
glutamate; excitatory amino acid; NMDA; GluN; dopamine; 6-hydroxydopamine; caudate putamen; nucleus accumbens
18.  Protection of cortical cells by equine estrogens against glutamate-induced excitotoxicity is mediated through a calcium independent mechanism 
BMC Neuroscience  2005;6:34.
High concentrations of glutamate can accumulate in the brain and may be involved in the pathogenesis of neurodegenerative disorders such as Alzheimer's disease. This form of neurotoxicity involves changes in the regulation of cellular calcium (Ca2+) and generation of free radicals such as peroxynitrite (ONOO-). Estrogen may protect against glutamate-induced cell death by reducing the excitotoxic Ca2+ influx associated with glutamate excitotoxicity. In this study, the inhibition of N-methyl-D-aspartate (NMDA) receptor and nitric oxide synthase (NOS) along with the effect of 17β-estradiol (17β-E2) and a more potent antioxidant Δ8, 17β-estradiol (Δ8, 17β-E2) on cell viability and intracellular Ca2+ ([Ca2+]i), following treatment of rat cortical cells with glutamate, was investigated.
Primary rat cortical cells were cultured for 7–12 days in Neurobasal medium containing B27 supplements. Addition of glutamate (200 μM) decreased cell viability to 51.3 ± 0.7% compared to control. Treatment with the noncompetitive NMDAR antagonist, MK-801, and the NOS inhibitor, L-NAME, completely prevented cell death. Pretreatment (24 hrs) with 17β-E2 and Δ8, 17β-E2 (0.01 to 10 μM) significantly reduced cell death. 17β-E2 was more potent than Δ8, 17β-E2. Glutamate caused a rapid 2.5 fold increase in [Ca2+]i. Treatment with 0.001 to 10 μM MK-801 reduced the initial Ca2+ influx by 14–41% and increased cell viability significantly. Pretreatment with 17β-E2 and Δ8, 17β-E2 had no effect on Ca2+ influx but protected the cortical cells against glutamate-induced cell death.
Glutamate-induced cell death in cortical cultures can occur through NMDAR and NOS-linked mechanisms by increasing nitric oxide and ONOO-. Equine estrogens: 17β-E2 and Δ8, 17β-E2, significantly protected cortical cells against glutamate-induced excitotoxicity by a mechanism that appears to be independent of Ca2+ influx. To our knowledge, this is a first such observation. Whether the decrease in NOS related products such as ONOO-, is a mechanism by which estrogens protect against glutamate toxicity, remains to be investigated. Estrogen replacement therapy in healthy and young postmenopausal women may protect against neurodegenerative diseases by these mechanisms.
PMCID: PMC1142325  PMID: 15882473
19.  N-Methyl-d-aspartate Receptors Mediate the Phosphorylation and Desensitization of Muscarinic Receptors in Cerebellar Granule Neurons* 
The Journal of Biological Chemistry  2009;284(25):17147-17156.
Changes in synaptic strength mediated by ionotropic glutamate N-methyl-d-asparate (NMDA) receptors is generally considered to be the molecular mechanism underlying memory and learning. NMDA receptors themselves are subject to regulation through signaling pathways that are activated by G-protein-coupled receptors (GPCRs). In this study we investigate the ability of NMDA receptors to regulate the signaling of GPCRs by focusing on the Gq/11-coupled M3-muscarinic receptor expressed endogenously in mouse cerebellar granule neurons. We show that NMDA receptor activation results in the phosphorylation and desensitization of M3-muscarinic receptors through a mechanism dependent on NMDA-mediated calcium influx and the activity of calcium-calmodulin-dependent protein kinase II. Our study reveals a complex pattern of regulation where GPCRs (M3-muscarinic) and NMDA receptors can feedback on each other in a process that is likely to influence the threshold value of signaling networks involved in synaptic plasticity.
PMCID: PMC2719353  PMID: 19332541
20.  Revisiting AMPA Receptors as an Antiepileptic Drug Target 
Epilepsy Currents  2011;11(2):56-63.
In the 1990s there was intense interest in ionotropic glutamate receptors as therapeutic targets for diverse neurological disorders, including epilepsy. NMDA receptors were thought to play a key role in the generation of seizures, leading to clinical studies of NMDA receptor blocking drugs in epilepsy. Disappointing results dampened enthusiasm for ionotropic glutamate receptors as a therapeutic target. Eventually it became appreciated that another type of ionotropic glutamate receptor, the AMPA receptor, is actually the predominant mediator of excitatory neurotransmission in the central nervous system and moreover that AMPA receptors are critical to the generation and spread of epileptic activity. As drugs became available that selectively target AMPA receptors, it was possible to demonstrate that AMPA receptor antagonists have powerful antiseizure activity in in vitro and in vivo models. A decade later, promising clinical studies with AMPA receptor antagonists, including the potent noncompetitive antagonist perampanel, are once again focusing attention on AMPA receptors as a drug target for epilepsy therapy.
PMCID: PMC3117497  PMID: 21686307
21.  Molecular pharmacology of human NMDA receptors 
Neurochemistry international  2011;61(4):601-609.
N-methyl-D-aspartate (NMDA) receptors are ionotropic glutamate receptors that mediate excitatory neurotransmission. NMDA receptors are also important drug targets that are implicated in a number of pathophysiological conditions. To facilitate the transition from lead compounds in pre-clinical animal models to drug candidates for human use, it is important to establish whether NMDA receptor ligands have similar properties at rodent and human NMDA receptors. Here, we compare amino acid sequences for human and rat NMDA receptor subunits and discuss inter-species variation in the context of our current knowledge of the relationship between NMDA receptor structure and function. We summarize studies on the biophysical properties of human NMDA receptors and compare these properties to those of rat orthologs. Finally, we provide a comprehensive pharmacological characterization that allows side-by-side comparison of agonists, un-competitive antagonists, GluN2B-selective non-competitive antagonists, and GluN2C/D-selective modulators at recombinant human and rat NMDA receptors. The evaluation of biophysical properties and pharmacological probes acting at different sites on the receptor suggest that the binding sites and conformational changes leading to channel gating in response to agonist binding are highly conserved between human and rat NMDA receptors. In summary, the results of this study suggest that no major detectable differences exist in the pharmacological and functional properties of human and rat NMDA receptors.
PMCID: PMC3335988  PMID: 22197913
ionotropic glutamate receptor; NMDA; pharmacology; electrophysiology; structure-function
22.  The in vivo proconvulsant effects of corticotropin releasing hormone in the developing rat are independent of ionotropic glutamate receptor activation 
Corticotropin releasing hormone (CRH) produces age-dependent limbic seizures in the infant rat. Both the phenotype and the neuroanatomic matrix of CRH-induced seizures resemble the seizures induced by the rigid glutamate analogue, kainic acid (KA), and by rapid amygdala kindling. The experiments described in this study tested the hypothesis that the in vivo proconvulsant effects of CRH require activation of ionotropic glutamate receptors. Non-competitive (+MK-801) or competitive (CGP-39551) antagonists of N-methyl-d-aspartate (NMDA) receptors decreased or eliminated the motor effects of CRH, but electrographic CRH-induced seizures were unaffected. Administration of CRH antagonists did not affect the acquisition or the maintenance of rapid kindling, which are mediated by NMDA and α-amino-3-hydroxy-5-methyl-isoxazole-4-propionate (AMPA) receptor activation, respectively. CRH receptor blockers failed to alter the latency or duration of seizures induced by activation of KA receptors, and threshold doses of CRH and KA had additive effects. CRH given repeatedly decreased the convulsant threshold dose of KA, probably via injury to hippocampal neurons. These results suggest that CRH and glutamate increase neuronal excitability via independent mechanisms. Because the proconvulsant effects of CRH are highly specific to the developmental period, glutamate-receptor-independent, CRH-receptor mediated excitation may account for some of the enhanced susceptibility to seizures during this period.
PMCID: PMC3129849  PMID: 9804917
Corticotropin releasing hormone; Glutamate receptors; Seizure; Rat
23.  Iduna Protects the Brain from Glutamate Excitotoxicity and Stroke by Interfering with Parthanatos 
Nature medicine  2011;17(6):692-699.
Glutamate acting on N-methyl-D-aspartate (NMDA) receptors plays an important role in neurodegenerative diseases and neuronal injury following stroke, through activation of poly(ADP-ribose) polymerase-1 and generation of the death molecule poly(ADP-ribose) (PAR) polymer. Here we identify Iduna, a novel NMDA receptor-induced survival gene that is neuroprotective against glutamate NMDA receptor mediated excitotoxicity both in vitro and in vivo and against stroke through interfering with PAR polymer induced cell death (parthanatos). Iduna’s protective effects are independent and downstream of PARP-1 activity. Iduna is a PAR polymer binding protein and mutations at the PAR polymer binding site abolishes the PAR binding activity of Iduna and attenuates its protective actions. Iduna is protective in vivo against NMDA-induced excitotoxicity and middle cerebral artery occlusion (MCAO)-induced stroke in mice. These results define Iduna as the first endogenous inhibitor of parthanatos. Interfering with PAR polymer signaling offers a new therapeutic strategy for the treatment of neurologic disorders.
PMCID: PMC3709257  PMID: 21602803
Neuroscience  2003;121(1):51-63.
We investigated the role of in vivo synaptic activity upon trafficking of the N-methyl-d-aspartate (NMDA) receptor subunit, NR2B, at mature synapses by electron microscopic immunocytochemistry. In vivo blockade of NMDA receptors was achieved by applying the NMDA receptor antagonist, d-2-amino-5-phosphonovalerate (d-APV), onto the cortical surface of one hemisphere of anesthetized adult rats. Inactive l-2-amino-5-phosphonovalerate (l-APV) was applied to the contralateral hemisphere for within-animal control and to assess basal level of NR2B subunits at synapses. Within 30 min of d-APV treatment, we observed a decrease in the number of layer I axo-spinous asymmetric synapses that are positively immuno-labeled for the NR2B subunits. This decrease was paralleled by reductions in the absolute number of immuno-gold particles found at these synapses. The decrease of NR2B labeling was detectable in all five animals examined. Significant reductions were seen not only at post-synaptic densities, but also within the cytoplasm of spines and axon terminals. The data demonstrate that blockade of NMDA receptors induces trafficking of NR2B subunits out of synaptic membranes, spines, and terminals. This is in sharp contrast to a previous observation that NR2A subunits move into spines and axon terminals following in vivo blockade with d-APV. These findings point to yet unknown, NMDA receptor activity-dependent mechanisms that separately regulate the localization of NR2A and NR2B subunits at synapses.
PMCID: PMC2874833  PMID: 12946699
activity-dependent; d-APV; electron microscopy; immunocytochemistry; ultrastructure; post-embedding colloidal gold labeling
25.  Structural and mechanistic determinants of a novel site for non-competitive inhibition of GluN2D-containing NMDA receptors 
N-methyl-D-aspartate (NMDA) receptors are ionotropic glutamate receptors that mediate excitatory synaptic transmission and have been implicated in several neurological diseases. We have evaluated the mechanism of action of a class of novel subunit-selective NMDA receptor antagonists, typified by (E)-4-(6-methoxy-2-(3-nitrostyryl)-4-oxoquinazolin-3(4H)-yl)-benzoic acid (QNZ46). We found that QNZ46 inhibits NMDA receptor function in a non-competitive and voltage-independent manner by an unconventional mechanism that requires binding of glutamate to the GluN2 subunit, but not glycine binding to the GluN1 subunit. This dependency of antagonist association on glutamate binding to GluN2 renders these compounds nominally use-dependent, since inhibition will rely on synaptic release of glutamate. Evaluation of the structural determinants responsible for the subunit-selectivity of QNZ46 revealed that these compounds act at a new site that has not previously been described. Residues residing in the part of the agonist binding domain immediately adjacent to the transmembrane helices appear to control selectivity of QNZ46 for GluN2C- and GluN2D-containing receptors. These residues are well-positioned to sense glutamate binding to GluN2 and thus mediate glutamate-dependent actions. This new class of non-competitive antagonists could provide an opportunity for the development of pharmacological tools and therapeutic agents that target NMDA receptors at a new site and modulate function by a novel mechanism.
PMCID: PMC3063124  PMID: 21389220
patch-clamp electrophysiology; Xenopus oocytes; pharmacology; allosteric modulation

Results 1-25 (664733)