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1.  Development of N-Methyl-D-Aspartate Receptor Subunits in Avian Auditory Brainstem 
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 [2004] 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.
doi:10.1002/cne.21303
PMCID: PMC3268522  PMID: 17366608
cochlear nucleus; magnocellularis; laminaris; angularis; tonotopic gradient
2.  Localization of KCNC1 (Kv3.1) Potassium Channel Subunits in the Avian Auditory Nucleus Magnocellularis and Nucleus Laminaris during Development 
Journal of Neurobiology  2003;55(2):165-178.
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.
doi:10.1002/neu.10198
PMCID: PMC3268178  PMID: 12672015
chicken; barn owl; ontogeny; time coding; outward current; high threshold
3.  Neuronal Plasticity in the Cingulate Cortex of Rats following Esophageal Acid Exposure in Early Life 
Gastroenterology  2011;141(2):544-552.
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.
Methods
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.
Results
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.
Conclusions
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.
doi:10.1053/j.gastro.2011.04.044
PMCID: PMC3152593  PMID: 21616075
brain; developmental neuroscience; pain processing; CamKII
4.  Pre and Post Synaptic NMDA Effects Targeting Purkinje Cells in the Mouse Cerebellar Cortex 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(1):e30180.
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.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0030180
PMCID: PMC3261884  PMID: 22276158
5.  LRP1 is critical for the surface distribution and internalization of the NR2B NMDA receptor subtype 
Background
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.
Results
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.
Conclusions
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.
doi:10.1186/1750-1326-8-25
PMCID: PMC3722104  PMID: 23866919
LRP1; NPxY2 motif; NMDA receptor; NR1; NR2B receptor subunit; PSD95; Cell surface expression
6.  Neuropeptide S attenuates neuropathological, neurochemical and behavioral changes induced by the NMDA receptor antagonist MK-801 
Neuropharmacology  2009;58(1):166-172.
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.
doi:10.1016/j.neuropharm.2009.06.027
PMCID: PMC2783386  PMID: 19576911
glutamate; NMDA; microdialysis; neuropeptide; schizophrenia; prepulse inhibition; retrosplenial cortex
7.  Experience-Dependent Changes in Excitatory and Inhibitory Receptor Subunit Expression in Visual Cortex 
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.
doi:10.3389/fnsyn.2010.00138
PMCID: PMC3059668  PMID: 21423524
plasticity; development; monocular deprivation; excitatory–inhibitory balance; amblyopia; NMDA; AMPA; GABAA
8.  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.
doi:10.1016/j.alcohol.2010.08.015
PMCID: PMC3095724  PMID: 21163614
PKA; PKC; phosphorylation; electrophysiology; alcohol
9.  Developmental Changes Underlying the Formation of the Specialized Time Coding Circuits in Barn Owls (Tyto alba) 
The Journal of Neuroscience  2002;22(17):7671-7679.
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.
PMCID: PMC3260528  PMID: 12196590
avian development; morphogenesis; auditory; laminaris; evolution; interaural time difference
10.  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.
doi:10.1093/cercor/bhp067
PMCID: PMC2774397  PMID: 19363149
development; LTD; LTP; rodent; synaptic plasticity
11.  GABAB-mediated rescue of altered excitatory–inhibitory balance, gamma synchrony and behavioral deficits following constitutive NMDAR-hypofunction 
Translational Psychiatry  2012;2(7):e142-.
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.
doi:10.1038/tp.2012.69
PMCID: PMC3410621  PMID: 22806213
animal model; GABAergic signaling; gamma oscillation; neuropsychiatric disease; NMDA-receptor
12.  Update on the Neurobiology of Alcohol Withdrawal Seizures 
Epilepsy Currents  2005;5(6):225-230.
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.
doi:10.1111/j.1535-7511.2005.00071.x
PMCID: PMC1312739  PMID: 16372057
13.  Assembly of the Auditory Circuitry by a Hox Genetic Network in the Mouse Brainstem 
PLoS Genetics  2013;9(2):e1003249.
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.
Author Summary
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.
doi:10.1371/journal.pgen.1003249
PMCID: PMC3567144  PMID: 23408898
14.  Reduced levels of NR2A and NR2B subunits of NMDA receptor and PSD-95 in the prefrontal cortex in major depression 
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.
doi:10.1016/j.pnpbp.2008.10.005
PMCID: PMC2655629  PMID: 18992785
major depressive disorder; glutamate receptors; postmortem; postsynaptic density protein; anterior prefrontal cortex
15.  Size and Receptor Density of Glutamatergic Synapses: A Viewpoint from Left–Right Asymmetry of CA3–CA1 Connections 
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.
doi:10.3389/neuro.05.010.2009
PMCID: PMC2706655  PMID: 19587849
spines; glutamate; AMPAR; NMDAR; mGluR5; PSD
16.  Direct pharmacological monitoring of the developmental switch in NMDA receptor subunit composition using TCN 213, a GluN2A-selective, glycine-dependent antagonist 
British Journal of Pharmacology  2012;166(3):924-937.
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.
EXPERIMENTAL APPROACH
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.
KEY RESULTS
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.
doi:10.1111/j.1476-5381.2011.01748.x
PMCID: PMC3417419  PMID: 22022974
NMDA; glutamate; glycine; antagonism; oocyte; two-electrode voltage clamp; electrophysiology; neurotoxicity; development
17.  Direct pharmacological monitoring of the developmental switch in NMDA receptor subunit composition using TCN 213, a GluN2A-selective, glycine-dependent antagonist 
British Journal of Pharmacology  2012;166(3):924-937.
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.
EXPERIMENTAL APPROACH
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.
KEY RESULTS
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.
doi:10.1111/j.1476-5381.2011.01748.x
PMCID: PMC3417419  PMID: 22022974
NMDA; glutamate; glycine; antagonism; oocyte; two-electrode voltage clamp; electrophysiology; neurotoxicity; development
18.  Loss of surface N-methyl-d-aspartate receptor proteins in mouse cortical neurones during anaesthesia induced by chloral hydrate in vivo 
BJA: British Journal of Anaesthesia  2009;102(4):515-522.
Background
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.
Methods
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.
Results
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.
Conclusions
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.
doi:10.1093/bja/aep009
PMCID: PMC2724878  PMID: 19224925
anaesthetics; cerebral cortex; glutamate receptor; NR1; NR2A; NR2B
19.  Regulation of NMDA Receptors by Phosphorylation 
Neuropharmacology  2007;53(3):362-368.
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.
doi:10.1016/j.neuropharm.2007.05.018
PMCID: PMC2001266  PMID: 17644144
NMDA receptors; Phosphorylation; Kinase; Glutamate
20.  Hearing Loss Raises Excitability in the Auditory Cortex 
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.
doi:10.1523/JNEUROSCI.5169-04.2005
PMCID: PMC1764814  PMID: 15829643
homeostasis; synaptic plasticity; GABAA; NMDA receptor; mEPSC; disuse
21.  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.
doi:10.1371/journal.pcbi.1000208
PMCID: PMC2563690  PMID: 18974824
22.  Plasticity of NMDA receptor NR2B subunit in memory and chronic pain 
Molecular Brain  2009;2:4.
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.
doi:10.1186/1756-6606-2-4
PMCID: PMC2644299  PMID: 19192303
23.  Study on the neurotoxic effects of low-level lead exposure in rats*  
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.
doi:10.1631/jzus.2005.B0686
PMCID: PMC1389806  PMID: 15973774
Lead exposure; Rat pups; Nitric oxide synthase (NOS); Fluorescence; Hippocampus; mRNA; Retro-translation (RT-PCR); N-methyl-D-aspartate receptor (NMDAR)
24.  Age- and Hormone-Regulation of N-Methyl-d-Aspartate Receptor Subunit NR2b in the Anteroventral Periventricular Nucleus of the Female Rat 
Journal of neuroendocrinology  2009;21(5):506-517.
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.
doi:10.1111/j.1365-2826.2009.01860.x
PMCID: PMC2930127  PMID: 19302193
N-methyl-d-aspartate receptor (NMDA receptor); NR2b; reproductive ageing; oestrogen; gonadotrophin-releasing hormone (GnRH); glutamate
25.  Dynamin-dependent NMDAR endocytosis during LTD and its dependence on synaptic state 
BMC Neuroscience  2005;6:48.
Background
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.
Results
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.
Conclusion
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.
doi:10.1186/1471-2202-6-48
PMCID: PMC1187896  PMID: 16042781

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