N-methyl-D-aspartate (NMDA) receptor subunit-specific probes were used to characterize developmental changes in the distribution of excitatory amino acid receptors in the chicken’s auditory brainstem nuclei. Although NR1 subunit expression does not change greatly during the development of the cochlear nuclei in the chicken (Tang and Carr  Hear. Res 191:79 – 89), there are significant developmental changes in NR2 subunit expression. We used in situ hybridization against NR1, NR2A, NR2B, NR2C, and NR2D to compare NR1 and NR2 expression during development. All five NMDA subunits were expressed in the auditory brainstem before embryonic day (E) 10, when electrical activity and synaptic responses appear in the nucleus magnocellularis (NM) and the nucleus laminaris (NL). At this time, the dominant form of the receptor appeared to contain NR1 and NR2B. NR2A appeared to replace NR2B by E14, a time that coincides with synaptic refinement and evoked auditory responses. NR2C did not change greatly during auditory development, whereas NR2D increased from E10 and remained at fairly high levels into adulthood. Thus changes in NMDA NR2 receptor subunits may contribute to the development of auditory brainstem responses in the chick.
cochlear nucleus; magnocellularis; laminaris; angularis; tonotopic gradient
The KCNC1 (previously Kv3.1) potassium channel, a delayed rectifier with a high threshold of activation, is highly expressed in the time coding nuclei of the adult chicken and barn owl auditory brainstem. The proposed role of KCNC1 currents in auditory neurons is to reduce the width of the action potential and enable neurons to transmit high frequency temporal information with little jitter. Because developmental changes in potassium currents are critical for the maturation of the shape of the action potential, we used immunohistochemical methods to examine the developmental expression of KCNC1 subunits in the avian auditory brainstem. The KCNC1 gene gives rise to two splice variants, a longer KCNC1b and a shorter KCNC1a that differ at the carboxy termini. Two antibodies were used: an antibody to the N-terminus that does not distinguish between KCNC1a and b isoforms, denoted as panKCNC1, and another antibody that specifically recognizes the C terminus of KCNC1b. A comparison of the staining patterns observed with the pan-KCNC1 and the KCNC1b specific antibodies suggests that KCNC1a and KCNC1b splice variants are differentially regulated during development. Although pan-KCNC1 immunoreactivity is observed from the earliest time examined in the chicken (E10), a subcellular redistribution of the immunoproduct was apparent over the course of development. KCNC1b specific staining has a late onset with immunostaining first appearing in the regions that map high frequencies in nucleus magnocellularis (NM) and nucleus laminaris (NL). The expression of KCNC1b protein begins around E14 in the chicken and after E21 in the barn owl, relatively late during ontogeny and at the time that synaptic connections mature morphologically and functionally.
chicken; barn owl; ontogeny; time coding; outward current; high threshold
Background & Aims
The cingulate cortex (CC) has been reported to be involved in processing pain of esophageal origin. However, little is known about molecular changes and cortical activation that arise from early-life, esophageal acid reflux. Excitatory neurotransmission via activation of the N-methyl-D-aspartate (NMDA) receptor and its interaction with post-synaptic density protein-95 (PSD-95) at the synapse appears to mediate neuronal development and plasticity. We investigated the effect of early-life esophageal acid exposure on NMDA receptor subunits and PSD-95 expression in the developing CC.
We assessed NMDA receptor subunits and PSD-95 protein expression in rostral CC (rCC) tissues of rats exposed to esophageal acid or saline (control), either during post-natal days 7–14 (P7–P14) and/or acutely, at adult stage (P60), using immunoblot and immunoprecipitation analyses.
Compared with controls, acid exposure from P7 to P14 significantly increased expression of NR1, NR2A, and PSD-95, measured 6 weeks after exposure. However, acute exposure at P60 caused a transient increase in expression of NMDA receptor subunits. These molecular changes were more robust in animals exposed to acid neonatally and rechallenged, acutely, at P60. Esophageal acid exposure induced calcium calmodulin kinase II-mediated phosphorylation of the subunit NR2B at Ser1303.
Esophageal acid exposure during early stages of life has long-term effects, because of phosphorylation of the NMDA receptor and overexpression in the rCC. This molecular alteration in the rCC might mediate sensitization of patients with acid-induced esophageal disorders.
brain; developmental neuroscience; pain processing; CamKII
N-methyl-D-aspartate (NMDA) receptors are associated with many forms of synaptic plasticity. Their expression level and subunit composition undergo developmental changes in several brain regions. In the mouse cerebellum, beside a developmental switch between NR2B and NR2A/C subunits in granule cells, functional postsynaptic NMDA receptors are seen in Purkinje cells of neonate and adult but not juvenile rat and mice. A presynaptic effect of NMDA on GABA release by cerebellar interneurons was identified recently. Nevertheless whereas NMDA receptor subunits are detected on parallel fiber terminals, a presynaptic effect of NMDA on spontaneous release of glutamate has not been demonstrated. Using mouse cerebellar cultures and patch-clamp recordings we show that NMDA facilitates glutamate release onto Purkinje cells in young cultures via a presynaptic mechanism, whereas NMDA activates extrasynaptic receptors in Purkinje cells recorded in old cultures. The presynaptic effect of NMDA on glutamate release is also observed in Purkinje cells recorded in acute slices prepared from juvenile but not from adult mice and requires a specific protocol of NMDA application.
Neuropeptide S (NPS) and its cognate receptor were reported to mediate anxiolytic-like and arousal effects. NPS receptors are predominantly expressed in the brain, especially in limbic structures, including amygdala, olfactory nucleus, subiculum and retrosplenial cortex. In contrast, the NPS precursor is expressed in only a few brainstem nuclei where it is co-expressed with various excitatory transmitters, including glutamate. The current study investigates interactions of the NPS system with glutamatergic neurotransmission. It has been suggested that dysfunctions in glutamatergic neurotransmission via N-methyl-D-aspartate (NMDA) receptors might be involved in the pathophysiology of schizophrenia since NMDA receptor antagonists, such as MK-801, have been shown to induce psychotic-like behavior in humans and animal models. Also, MK-801 is known to produce histological changes such as cytoplasmic vacuoles in retrosplenial cortex neurons where NPS receptors are highly expressed. In this study we show that NPS is able to alleviate neuropathological, neurochemical and behavioral changes produced by NMDA receptor antagonists. NPS treatment attenuated MK-801-induced vacuolization in the rat retrosplenial cortex in a dose dependent manner that can be blocked by an NPS receptor-selective antagonist. NPS also suppressed MK-801-induced increases of extracellular acetylcholine levels in the retrosplenial cortex. In the prepulse inhibition (PPI) assay, animals pretreated with NPS recovered significantly from MK-801-induced disruption of PPI. Our study suggests that NPS may have protective effects against the neurotoxic and behavioral changes produced by NMDA receptor antagonists and that NPS receptor agonists may elicit antipsychotic effects.
glutamate; NMDA; microdialysis; neuropeptide; schizophrenia; prepulse inhibition; retrosplenial cortex
Barn owls are capable of great accuracy in detecting the interaural time differences (ITDs) that underlie azimuthal sound localization. They compute ITDs in a circuit in nucleus laminaris (NL) that is reorganized with respect to birds like the chicken. The events that lead to the reorganization of the barn owl NL take place during embryonic development, shortly after the cochlear and laminaris nuclei have differentiated morphologically. At first the developing owl’s auditory brainstem exhibits morphology reminiscent of that of the developing chicken. Later, the two systems diverge, and the owl’s brainstem auditory nuclei undergo a secondary morphogenetic phase during which NL dendrites retract, the laminar organization is lost, and synapses are redistributed. These events lead to the restructuring of the ITD coding circuit and the consequent reorganization of the hindbrain map of ITDs and azimuthal space.
avian development; morphogenesis; auditory; laminaris; evolution; interaural time difference
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.
PKA; PKC; phosphorylation; electrophysiology; alcohol
Experience-dependent development of visual cortex depends on the balance between excitatory and inhibitory activity. This activity is regulated by key excitatory (NMDA, AMPA) and inhibitory (GABAA) receptors. The composition of these receptors changes developmentally, affecting the excitatory–inhibitory (E/I) balance and synaptic plasticity. Until now, it has been unclear how abnormal visual experience affects this balance. To examine this question, we measured developmental changes in excitatory and inhibitory receptor subunits in visual cortex following normal visual experience and monocular deprivation. We used Western blot analysis to quantify expression of excitatory (NR1, NR2A, NR2B, GluR2) and inhibitory (GABAAα1, GABAAα3) receptor subunits. Monocular deprivation promoted a complex pattern of changes in receptor subunit expression that varied with age and was most severe in the region of visual cortex representing the central visual field. To characterize the multidimensional pattern of experience-dependent change in these synaptic mechanisms, we applied a neuroinformatics approach using principal component analysis. We found that monocular deprivation (i) causes a large portion of the normal developmental trajectory to be bypassed, (ii) shifts the E/I balance in favor of more inhibition, and (iii) accelerates the maturation of receptor subunits. Taken together, these results show that monocularly deprived animals have an abnormal balance of the synaptic machinery needed for functional maturation of cortical circuits and for developmental plasticity. This raises the possibility that interventions intended to treat amblyopia may need to address multiple synaptic mechanisms to produce optimal recovery.
plasticity; development; monocular deprivation; excitatory–inhibitory balance; amblyopia; NMDA; AMPA; GABAA
Reduced N-methyl-D-aspartate-receptor (NMDAR) signaling has been associated with schizophrenia, autism and intellectual disability. NMDAR-hypofunction is thought to contribute to social, cognitive and gamma (30–80 Hz) oscillatory abnormalities, phenotypes common to these disorders. However, circuit-level mechanisms underlying such deficits remain unclear. This study investigated the relationship between gamma synchrony, excitatory–inhibitory (E/I) signaling, and behavioral phenotypes in NMDA-NR1neo−/− mice, which have constitutively reduced expression of the obligate NR1 subunit to model disrupted developmental NMDAR function. Constitutive NMDAR-hypofunction caused a loss of E/I balance, with an increase in intrinsic pyramidal cell excitability and a selective disruption of parvalbumin-expressing interneurons. Disrupted E/I coupling was associated with deficits in auditory-evoked gamma signal-to-noise ratio (SNR). Gamma-band abnormalities predicted deficits in spatial working memory and social preference, linking cellular changes in E/I signaling to target behaviors. The GABAB-receptor agonist baclofen improved E/I balance, gamma-SNR and broadly reversed behavioral deficits. These data demonstrate a clinically relevant, highly translatable neural-activity-based biomarker for preclinical screening and therapeutic development across a broad range of disorders that share common endophenotypes and disrupted NMDA-receptor signaling.
animal model; GABAergic signaling; gamma oscillation; neuropsychiatric disease; NMDA-receptor
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.
development; LTD; LTP; rodent; synaptic plasticity
Rhombomeres (r) contribute to brainstem auditory nuclei during development. Hox genes are determinants of rhombomere-derived fate and neuronal connectivity. Little is known about the contribution of individual rhombomeres and their associated Hox codes to auditory sensorimotor circuitry. Here, we show that r4 contributes to functionally linked sensory and motor components, including the ventral nucleus of lateral lemniscus, posterior ventral cochlear nuclei (VCN), and motor olivocochlear neurons. Assembly of the r4-derived auditory components is involved in sound perception and depends on regulatory interactions between Hoxb1 and Hoxb2. Indeed, in Hoxb1 and Hoxb2 mutant mice the transmission of low-level auditory stimuli is lost, resulting in hearing impairments. On the other hand, Hoxa2 regulates the Rig1 axon guidance receptor and controls contralateral projections from the anterior VCN to the medial nucleus of the trapezoid body, a circuit involved in sound localization. Thus, individual rhombomeres and their associated Hox codes control the assembly of distinct functionally segregated sub-circuits in the developing auditory brainstem.
Sound perception and sound localization are controlled by two distinct circuits in the central nervous system. However, the cellular and molecular determinants underlying their development are poorly understood. Here, we show that a spatially restricted region of the brainstem, the rhombomere 4, and two members of the Hox gene family, Hoxb1 and Hoxb2, are directly implicated in the development of the circuit leading to sound perception and sound amplification. In the absence of Hoxb1 and Hoxb2 function, we found severe morphological defects in the hair cell population implicated in transducing the acoustic signal, leading ultimately to severe hearing impairments in adult mutant mice. In contrast, the expression in the cochlear nucleus of another Hox member, Hoxa2, regulates the guidance receptor Rig1 and contralateral connectivity in the sound localization circuit. Some of the auditory dysfunctions described in our mouse models resemble pathological hearing conditions in humans, in which patients have an elevated hearing threshold sensitivity, as recorded in audiograms. Thus, this study provides mechanistic insight into the genetic and functional regulation of Hox genes during development and assembly of the auditory system.
Abrupt cessation of alcohol intake after prolonged heavy drinking may trigger alcohol withdrawal seizures. Generalized tonic–clonic seizures are the most characteristic and severe type of seizure that occur in this setting. Generalized seizures also occur in rodent models of alcohol withdrawal. In these models, the withdrawal seizures are triggered by neuronal networks in the brainstem, including the inferior colliculus; similar brainstem mechanisms may contribute to alcohol withdrawal seizures in humans. Alcohol causes intoxication through effects on diverse ion channels and neurotransmitter receptors, including GABAA receptors—particularly those containing δ subunits that are localized extrasynaptically and mediate tonic inhibition—and N-methyl-D-aspartate (NMDA) receptors. Alcohol dependence results from compensatory changes during prolonged alcohol exposure, including internalization of GABAA receptors, which allows adaptation to these effects. Withdrawal seizures are believed to reflect unmasking of these changes and may also involve specific withdrawal-induced cellular events, such as rapid increases in α4 subunit–containing GABAA receptors that confer reduced inhibitory function. Optimizing approaches to the prevention of alcohol withdrawal seizures requires an understanding of the distinct neurobiologic mechanisms that underlie these seizures.
Recent neuroimaging and postmortem studies have demonstrated abnormalities in glutamatergic transmission in major depression. Glutamate NMDA (N-methyl-D-aspartate) receptors are one of the major mediators of excitatory neurotransmission in the central nervous system. At synaptic sites, NMDA receptors are linked with postsynaptic density protein-95 (PSD-95) that plays a key role in mediating trafficking, clustering, and downstream signaling events, following receptor activation. In this study, we examined the expression of NMDA receptor subunits NR1, NR2A, and NR2B as well as PSD-95 in the anterior prefrontal cortex (PFC) using Western blot method. Cortical samples were obtained from age, gender and postmortem interval matched depressed and psychiatrically healthy controls. The results revealed that there was a reduced expression of the NMDA receptor subunits NR2A (−54%) and NR2B (−48%), and PSD-95 protein level (−40%) in the PFC of depressed subjects relative to controls, with no change in the NR1 subunit. The alterations in NMDA receptor subunits, especially the NR2A and NR2B, as well as PSD-95 suggest an abnormality in the NMDA receptor signaling in the PFC in major depression. Our findings in conjunction with recent clinical, cellular, and neuroimaging studies further implicate the involvement of glutamate neurotransmission in the pathophysiology of depression. This study provides additional evidence that NMDA receptor complex is a target for discovery of novel antidepressants.
major depressive disorder; glutamate receptors; postmortem; postsynaptic density protein; anterior prefrontal cortex
BACKGROUND AND PURPOSE
Developmental switches in NMDA receptor subunit expression have been inferred from studies of GluN2 expression levels, changes in kinetics of glutamatergic synaptic currents and sensitivity of NMDA receptor-mediated currents to selective GluN2B antagonists. Here we use TCN 213, a novel GluN2A-selective antagonist to identify the presence of this subunit in functional NMDA receptors in developing cortical neurones.
Two-electrode voltage-clamp (TEVC) recordings were made from Xenopus laevis oocytes to determine the pharmacological activity of TCN 213 at recombinant NMDA receptors. TCN 213 antagonism was studied in cultures of primary cortical neurones, assessing the NMDA receptor dependency of NMDA-induced excitotoxicity and monitoring developmental switches in NMDA receptor subunit composition.
TCN 213 antagonism of GluN1/GluN2A NMDA receptors was dependent on glycine but independent of glutamate concentrations in external recording solutions. Antagonism by TCN 213 was surmountable and gave a Schild plot with unity slope. TCN 213 block of GluN1/GluN2B NMDA receptor-mediated currents was negligible. In cortical neurones, at a early developmental stage predominantly expressing GluN2B-containing NMDA receptors, TCN 213 failed to antagonize NMDA receptor-mediated currents or to prevent GluN2B-dependent, NMDA-induced excitoxicity. In older cultures (DIV 14) or in neurones transfected with GluN2A subunits, TCN 213 antagonized NMDA-evoked currents. Block by TCN 213 of NMDA currents inversely correlated with block by ifenprodil, a selective GluN2B antagonist.
CONCLUSIONS AND IMPLICATIONS
TCN 213 selectively blocked GluN1/GluN2A over GluN1/GluN2B NMDA receptors allowing direct dissection of functional NMDA receptors and pharmacological profiling of developmental changes in native NMDA receptor subunit composition.
NMDA; glutamate; glycine; antagonism; oocyte; two-electrode voltage clamp; electrophysiology; neurotoxicity; development
Anaesthetics may target ionotropic glutamate receptors in brain cells to produce their biological actions. Membrane-bound ionotropic glutamate receptors undergo dynamic trafficking between the surface membrane and intracellular organelles. Their subcellular distribution is subject to modulation by changing synaptic inputs and determines the efficacy and strength of excitatory synapses. It has not been explored whether anaesthesia has any impact on surface glutamate receptor expression. In this study, the effect of general anaesthesia on expression of N-methyl-d-aspartate (NMDA) receptors in the surface and intracellular pools of cortical neurones was investigated in vivo.
General anaesthesia was induced by intraperitoneal injection of chloral hydrate in adult male mice. Surface protein cross-linking assays were performed to detect changes in distribution of NMDA receptor subunits (NR1, NR2A, and NR2B) in the surface and intracellular compartments of cerebral cortical neurones.
Chloral hydrate did not alter the total amounts of NR1, NR2A, and NR2B proteins in cortical neurones. However, the drug reduced NR1 proteins in the surface pool of these neurones, and induced a proportional increase in NR1 in the intracellular pool. Similar redistribution of NR2B subunits was observed between the two distinct pools. The changes in NR1 and NR2B were rapid and remained throughout the duration of anaesthesia. NR2A proteins were not altered in the surface or intracellular pool in response to chloral hydrate.
These data demonstrate that subcellular expression of NR1 and NR2B in cortical neurones is sensitive to anaesthesia. Chloral hydrate reduces surface-expressed NMDA receptors (specifically NR2B-containing NMDA receptors) in these neurones in vivo.
anaesthetics; cerebral cortex; glutamate receptor; NR1; NR2A; NR2B
Synaptic plasticity is considered to be the main mechanism for learning and memory. Excitatory synapses in the cerebral cortex and hippocampus undergo plastic changes during development and in response to electric stimulation. It is widely accepted that this process is mediated by insertion and elimination of various glutamate receptors. In a series of recent investigations on left–right asymmetry of hippocampal CA3–CA1 synapses, glutamate receptor subunits have been found to have distinctive expression patterns that depend on the postsynaptic density (PSD) area. Particularly notable are the GluR1 AMPA receptor subunit and NR2B NMDA receptor subunit, where receptor density has either a supralinear (GluR1 AMPA) or inverse (NR2B NMDAR) relationship to the PSD area. We review current understanding of structural and physiological synaptic plasticity and propose a scheme to classify receptor subtypes by their expression pattern with respect to PSD area.
spines; glutamate; AMPAR; NMDAR; mGluR5; PSD
Developmental hearing impairments compromise sound discrimination, speech acquisition, and cognitive function; however, the adjustments of functional properties in the primary auditory cortex (A1) remain unknown. We induced sensorineural hearing loss (SNHL) in developing gerbils and then reared the animals for several days. The intrinsic membrane and synaptic properties of layer 2/3 pyramidal neurons were subsequently examined in a thalamocortical brain slice preparation with whole-cell recordings and electron microscopic immunocytochemistry. SNHL neurons displayed a depolarized resting membrane potential, an increased input resistance, and a higher incidence of sustained firing. They also exhibited significantly larger thalamocortically and intracortically evoked excitatory synaptic responses, including a greater susceptibility to the NMDA receptor antagonist AP-5 and the NR2B subunit antagonist ifenprodil. This correlated with an increase in NR2B labeling of asymmetric synapses, as visualized ultrastructurally. Furthermore, decreased frequency and increased amplitude of miniature EPSCs (mEPSCs) in SNHL neurons suggest that a decline in presynaptic release properties is compensated by an increased excitatory response. To verify that the increased thalamocortical excitation was elicited by putative monosynaptic connections, minimum amplitude ventral medial geniculate nucleus-evoked EPSCs were recorded. These minimum-evoked responses were of larger amplitude, and the NMDAergic currents were also larger and longer in SNHL neurons. These findings were supported by significantly longer AP-5-sensitive durations and larger amplitudes of mEPSCs. Last, the amplitudes of intracortically evoked monosynaptic and polysynaptic GABAergic inhibitory synaptic responses were significantly smaller in SNHL neurons. These alterations in cellular properties after deafness reflect an attempt by A1 to sustain an operative level of cortical excitability that may involve homeostatic mechanisms.
homeostasis; synaptic plasticity; GABAA; NMDA receptor; mEPSC; disuse
N-methyl-D-aspartate (NMDA) receptors are critical for neuronal development and synaptic plasticity. The molecular mechanisms underlying the synaptic localization and functional regulation of NMDA receptors have been the subject of extensive studies. In particular, phosphorylation has emerged as a fundamental mechanism that regulates NMDA receptor trafficking and can alter the channel properties of NMDA receptors. Here we summarize recent advances in the characterization of NMDA receptor phosphorylation, emphasizing subunit-specific phosphorylation, which differentially controls the trafficking and surface expression of NMDA receptors.
NMDA receptors; Phosphorylation; Kinase; Glutamate
Acoustic information is brought to the brain by auditory nerve fibers, all of which terminate in the cochlear nuclei, and is passed up the auditory pathway through the principal cells of the cochlear nuclei. A population of neurons variously known as T stellate, type I multipolar, planar multipolar, or chopper cells forms one of the major ascending auditory pathways through the brain stem. T Stellate cells are sharply tuned; as a population they encode the spectrum of sounds. In these neurons, phasic excitation from the auditory nerve is made more tonic by feed forward excitation, coactivation of inhibitory with excitatory inputs, relatively large excitatory currents through NMDA receptors, and relatively little synaptic depression. The mechanisms that make firing tonic also obscure the fine structure of sounds that is represented in the excitatory inputs from the auditory nerve and account for the characteristic chopping response patterns with which T stellate cells respond to tones. In contrast with other principal cells of the ventral cochlear nucleus (VCN), T stellate cells lack a low-voltage-activated potassium conductance and are therefore sensitive to small, steady, neuromodulating currents. The presence of cholinergic, serotonergic and noradrenergic receptors allows the excitability of these cells to be modulated by medial olivocochlear efferent neurons and by neuronal circuits associated with arousal. T Stellate cells deliver acoustic information to the ipsilateral dorsal cochlear nucleus (DCN), ventral nucleus of the trapezoid body (VNTB), periolivary regions around the lateral superior olivary nucleus (LSO), and to the contralateral ventral lemniscal nuclei (VNLL) and inferior colliculus (IC). It is likely that T stellate cells participate in feedback loops through both medial and lateral olivocochlear efferent neurons and they may be a source of ipsilateral excitation of the LSO.
ventral cochlear nucleus; brainstem auditory pathways; ion channels; patch-clamp recording
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.
The transduction of sound in the auditory periphery, the cochlea, is inhibited by efferent cholinergic neurons projecting from the brainstem and synapsing directly on mechanosensory hair cells. One fundamental question in auditory neuroscience is what role(s) this feedback plays in our ability to hear. In the present study, we have engineered a genetically modified mouse model in which the magnitude and duration of efferent cholinergic effects are increased, and we assess the consequences of this manipulation on cochlear function. We generated the Chrna9L9′T line of knockin mice with a threonine for leucine change (L9′T) at position 9′ of the second transmembrane domain of the α9 nicotinic cholinergic subunit, rendering α9-containing receptors that were hypersensitive to acetylcholine and had slower desensitization kinetics. The Chrna9L9′T allele produced a 3-fold prolongation of efferent synaptic currents in vitro. In vivo, Chrna9L9′T mice had baseline elevation of cochlear thresholds and efferent-mediated inhibition of cochlear responses was dramatically enhanced and lengthened: both effects were reversed by strychnine blockade of the α9α10 hair cell nicotinic receptor. Importantly, relative to their wild-type littermates, Chrna9L9′T/L9′T mice showed less permanent hearing loss following exposure to intense noise. Thus, a point mutation designed to alter α9α10 receptor gating has provided an animal model in which not only is efferent inhibition more powerful, but also one in which sound-induced hearing loss can be restrained, indicating the ability of efferent feedback to ameliorate sound trauma.
Nicotinic cholinergic receptors are essential to higher order brain function. Structurally, these operate through a myriad of ligand-gated pentameric arrangements of different homologous subunits. Here, we report progress in understanding the structural properties of a neuronal nicotinic receptor at the synapse. Receptors assembled from two nicotinic cholinergic subunits (α9 and α10) serve exclusively at the synapse between central nervous system descending fibers and cochlear hair cells. This enabled us to show direct causality between a point mutation of the α9 subunit, and predicted alterations in the synaptic strength in sensory hair cells of the cochlea of α9 point mutant mice. Furthermore, this single mutation results in profound enhancement of central nervous system feedback to the cochlea. And finally, as a consequence, mutant mice possessing this altered receptor have substantially improved resistance to traumatic sound. Thus, central neuronal feedback on cochlear hair cells provides an opportunity to define one specific role that nicotinic receptors can play in the nervous system, enabling study from biophysical to behavioral levels and promoting a target for the prevention of noise-induced hearing loss.
A point mutation in the cochlear hair cell nicotinic cholinergic receptor leads to strengthened central nervous system feedback to the cochlea and enhances protection from noise-induced hearing loss.
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.
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.
Objective: To investigate effects of developmental lead exposure on nitric oxide synthase (NOS) activity in different brain regions and on N-methyl-D-aspartate (NMDA) receptor mRNA expression in the hippocampus of rats. On the basis of these observations, we explored possible mechanisms by which lead exposure leads to impaired learning and memorizing abilities in children. Methods: A series of rat animal models exposed to low levels of lead during the developing period was established (drinking water containing 0.025%, 0.05% and 0.075% lead acetate). NOS activities in the hippocampus, the cerebral cortex, the cerebellum and the brain stem were determined with fluorescence measurement and levels of mRNA expression of the NMDA receptor 2A (NR2A) subunit and NMDA receptor 2B (NR2B) subunit in the rat hippocampus were measured with Retro-translation (RT-PCR). Results: There were no differences in the body weight of rat pups between any of the groups at any given time (P>0.05). The blood lead level of Pb-exposed rat pups showed a systematic pattern of change: at 14 d of age, it was lower than that at 7 d of age, then rising to the peak level at 21 d and finally falling to lower levels at 28 d. The hippocampal NOS activities of lead-exposed groups were all lower than that of the control group on the 21st and 28th day (P<0.01). NOS activities in the cerebellum of lead-exposed groups were all lower than that of the control group on the 21st and 28th day (P<0.001) and the NOS activity of the 0.025% group was significantly lower than that of the 0.05% and 0.075% groups on the 28th day (P<0.05). NOS activity in the cerebral cortex of the 0.075% group was significantly lower than that of the control, 0.025% and 0.05% groups on the four day spans (P<0.001). There was no significant difference of NOS activity in the brain stem between any lead-exposed group and the control group on the four day spans. In the 0.05% and the 0.075% groups, the level of NR2A mRNA expression was higher than that in the control group at 7 d and 14 d of age (P<0.05). In the 0.025% group, the level of NR2A was found to be higher than that in the control group at 7 d of age only (P<0.05). No significant differences were found for the levels of NR2B mRNA expression between any of the groups at any given time. Conclusions: NOS activity in the hippocampus, the cerebral cortex and the cerebellum are inhibited by lead exposure. The degree of the inhibitory effect depends on the time span of exposure and the lead concentration. Developmental low-level lead exposure was found to raise the level of NR2A mRNA expression in the hippocampus of rats. Developmental low-level lead exposure does not affect the level of NR2B mRNA expression in the hippocampus.
Lead exposure; Rat pups; Nitric oxide synthase (NOS); Fluorescence; Hippocampus; mRNA; Retro-translation (RT-PCR); N-methyl-D-aspartate receptor (NMDAR)
Glutamatergic synapses play critical roles in brain functions and diseases. Long-term potentiation (LTP) is a most effective cellular model for investigating the synaptic changes that underlie learning as well as brain disease – although different molecular mechanisms are likely involved in LTP in physiological and pathological conditions. In the case of learning, N-methyl-D-aspartate (NMDA) receptor is known to be important for triggering learning-related plasticity; alpha-amino-3-hydroxy-5-methyl-4-isoxazolepropionic (AMPA) receptors are thought to be important for the expression of synaptic changes. In this review, I will examine recent evidence on the novel roles of NMDA receptors, in particular NR2B subunit-containing NMDA receptors in learning and chronic pain. A positive feedback control of NR2B receptor subunit is proposed to explain cortical sensitization involved in chronic pain, but not learning and memory.
Glutamate, acting through its N-methyl-d-aspartate (NMDA) and non-NMDA receptors in the hypothalamus, regulates reproductive neuroendocrine functions via direct and indirect actions upon gonadotrophin-releasing hormone (GnRH) neurones. Previous studies indicate that the NMDA receptor subunit NR2b undergoes changes in protein and gene expression in the hypothalamus in general, and on GnRH neurones in particular, during reproductive ageing. In the present study, we examined whether the NR2b-expressing cell population, both alone and in association with the NR1 subunit (i.e. the latter subunit is necessary for a functional NMDA receptor), is altered as a function of age and/or steroid hormone treatment. Studies focused on the anteroventral periventricular (AVPV) nucleus of the hypothalamus, a region critically involved in the control of reproduction. Young (3-5 months), middle-aged (9-12 months), and aged (approximately 22 months) female rats were ovariectomised and, 1 month later, they were treated sequentially with oestradiol plus progesterone, oestradiol plus vehicle, or vehicle plus vehicle, then perfused. Quantitative stereologic analysis of NR2b-immunoreactive cell numbers in the AVPV showed an age-associated decrease in the density of NR2b-immunoreactive cells, but no effect of hormone treatment. In a second study, immunofluorescent double labelling of NR2b and NR1 was analysed by confocal microscopy of fraction volume, a semi-quantitative measure of fluorescence intensity. No effect of ageing was detected for immunofluorescent NR1 or NR2b alone, whereas the NR2b fraction volume increased in the oestradiol plus vehicle group. With ageing, the fraction volume of the NR2b/NR1-colocalised subunits increased. Together with the stereology results, this suggests that, although fewer cells express the NR2b subunit in the ageing AVPV, a greater percentage of these subunits are co-expressed with NR1. Our results suggest that the subunit composition of NMDA receptors in the AVPV undergo both age- and hormonal-regulation, which may be related to previous observations of changes in functional responses of reproductive neuroendocrine systems to NMDA receptor modulators with ageing.
N-methyl-d-aspartate receptor (NMDA receptor); NR2b; reproductive ageing; oestrogen; gonadotrophin-releasing hormone (GnRH); glutamate