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1.  AMPA receptor subunits expression and phosphorylation in cingulate cortex in rats following esophageal acid exposure 
We recently reported an increase in N-methyl-d-aspartate (NMDA) receptor subunit expression and CaMKII-dependent phosphorylation of NR2B in the rostral cingulate cortical (rCC) neurons following esophageal acid exposure in rats. As α-amino-3-hydroxy-5-methyl-4-isoxazole propionic acid (AMPA) receptors mediate the fast excitatory transmission and play a critical role in synaptic plasticity, in this study, we investigated the effect of esophageal acid exposure in rats on the expression of AMPA receptor subunits and the involvement of these molecular alterations in acid-induced sensitization of neurons in the anterior cingulate (ACC) and midcingulate (MCC) cortices.
In molecular study, we examined GluA1 and GluA2 expression and phosphorylation in membrane preparations and in the isolated postsynaptic densities (PSDs) from rats receiving acute esophageal exposure of either saline (control group) or 0.1 NHCl (experimental group). In electrophysiological study, the effect of selective AMPA receptor (Ca2+ permeable) antagonist IEM-1460 and CaMKII inhibitor KN-93 was tested on responses of cortical neurons during acid infusion to address the underlying molecular mechanism of acid-induced sensitization.
Key Results
The acid exposure significantly increased expression of GluA1, pGluA1Ser831, and phosphorylated CaMKIIThr286, in the cortical membrane preparations. In isolated PSDs, a significant increase in pGluA1Ser831 was observed in acid-treated rats compared with controls. Microinjection of IEM-1460 or KN-93 near the recording site significantly attenuated acid-induced sensitization of cortical neurons.
Conclusions & Inferences
The underlying mechanism of acid-induced cortical sensitization involves upregulation and CaMKII-mediated phosphorylation of GluA1. These molecular changes of AMPA receptors subunit GluA1 in the cortical neurons might play an important role in acid-induced esophageal hypersensitivity.
PMCID: PMC4097166  PMID: 24118589
AMPA receptor subunits; anterior cingulate cortex (ACC); CaMKII; GluA1; midcingulate cortex (MCC); postsynaptic densities (PSDs)
2.  Chronic ethanol up-regulates the synaptic expression of the nuclear translational regulatory protein AIDA-1 in primary hippocampal neurons 
Alcohol (Fayetteville, N.Y.)  2012;46(6):569-576.
Recent studies have identified synaptic proteins that undergo synapse-to-nucleus translocation in response to neuronal activity that modulate protein synthesis. One such translational regulatory protein of the postsynaptic density (PSD) is AIDA-1d, which binds to PSD-95 via its C-terminus. Activation of synaptic NMDA receptors induces the cleavage of AIDA-1d, and the N-terminus is then shuttled to nuclear Cajal bodies where it plays a role in regulating global protein synthesis. Chronic ethanol exposure has been shown to increase the synaptic clustering of NMDA receptors and PSD-95. Here, we tested the hypotheses that AIDA-1d regulates chronic ethanol-induced increases in synaptic NMDA receptor expression. As reported, we found that AIDA-1 was highly enriched in dendritic spines and co-localized with PSD-95. Acute NMDA treatment increased AIDA-1 colocalization with p80 coilin, a marker of Cajal bodies. Chronic treatment (4 day) of cultures with ethanol (25 – 100 mM) or with the NMDA receptor antagonist AP-V (50 µM) enhanced the clustering of AIDA-1 at synaptic sites. However, chronic ethanol treatment (50 mM) in the presence of the NMDA receptor agonist NMDA (2.5 µM) prevented this increase. Surprisingly, PSD-95 did not seem to play a role in the synaptic distribution of AIDA-1 as this distribution was not affected by declustering PSD-95 from synapses in response to inhibition of palmitoylation. We found that lentiviral knockdown of AIDA-1d did not affect protein expression levels of NMDA receptor subunits GluN1, GluN1 C2’, or GluN2B. The results of this study demonstrate that synaptic AIDA-1 expression is enhanced by chronic ethanol exposure that can be prevented by concurrent stimulation of NMDA receptors. In addition, we found that the association of AIDA-1 with PSD-95 is not required for its localization to the PSD. Moreover, we found that AIDA-1 does not regulate protein expression levels or alternative splicing of the GluN1 subunit of NMDA receptors.
PMCID: PMC3411901  PMID: 22703994
AIDA-1, chronic ethanol, synapse-to-nucleus signaling; NMDA receptors; Cajal bodies; PSD-95
3.  LRP1 is critical for the surface distribution and internalization of the NR2B NMDA receptor subtype 
The N-methyl-D-aspartate receptors are key mediators of excitatory transmission and are implicated in many forms of synaptic plasticity. These receptors are heterotetrameres consisting of two obligatory NR1 and two regulatory subunits, usually NR2A or NR2B. The NR2B subunits are abundant in the early postnatal brain, while the NR2A/NR2B ratio increases during early postnatal development. This shift is driven by NMDA receptor activity. A functional interplay of the Low Density Lipoprotein Receptor Related Protein 1 (LRP1) NMDA receptor has already been reported. Such abilities as interaction of LRP1 with NMDA receptor subunits or its important role in tPa-mediated NMDA receptor signaling were already demonstrated. Moreover, mice harboring a conditional neuronal knock-out mutation of the entire Lrp1 gene display NMDA-associated behavioral changes. However, the exact role of LRP1 on NMDA receptor function remains still elusive.
To provide a mechanistic explanation for such effects we investigated whether an inactivating knock-in mutation into the NPxY2 motif of LRP1 might influence the cell surface expression of LRP1 and NMDA receptors in primary cortical neurons. Here we demonstrate that a knock-in into the NPxY2 motif of LRP1 results in an increased surface expression of LRP1 and NR2B NMDA receptor subunit due to reduced endocytosis rates of LRP1 and the NR2B subunit in primary neurons derived from LRP1ΔNPxY2 animals. Furthermore, we demonstrate an altered phosphorylation pattern of S1480 and Y1472 in the NR2B subunit at the surface of LRP1ΔNPxY2 neurons, while the respective kinases Fyn and casein kinase II are not differently regulated compared with wild type controls. Performing co-immunoprecipitation experiments we demonstrate that binding of LRP1 to NR2B might be linked by PSD95, is phosphorylation dependent and this regulation mechanism is impaired in LRP1ΔNPxY2 neurons. Finally, we demonstrate hyperactivity and changes in spatial and reversal learning in LRP1ΔNPxY2 mice, confirming the mechanistic interaction in a physiological readout.
In summary, our data demonstrate that LRP1 plays a critical role in the regulation of NR2B expression at the cell surface and may provide a mechanistic explanation for the behavioral abnormalities detected in neuronal LRP1 knock-out animals reported earlier.
PMCID: PMC3722104  PMID: 23866919
LRP1; NPxY2 motif; NMDA receptor; NR1; NR2B receptor subunit; PSD95; Cell surface expression
4.  Cannabinoids inhibit network-driven synapse loss between hippocampal neurons in culture 
Dendritic pruning and loss of synaptic contacts are early events in many neurodegenerative diseases. These effects are dynamic and appear to differ mechanistically from the cell death process. Cannabinoids modulate synaptic activity and afford protection in some neurotoxicity models. We investigated the effects of cannabinoids on activity-induced changes in the number of synapses between rat hippocampal neurons in culture. Morphology and synapses were visualized by confocal imaging of neurons expressing DsRed2 and postsynaptic density protein 95 fused to enhanced green fluorescent protein (PSD95-GFP). Reducing the extracellular Mg2+ concentration to 0.1 mM for 4 hr induced intense synaptic activity that decreased the number of PSD95-GFP puncta by 45 ± 13 %. Synapse loss was an early event, required activation of NMDA receptors and was mediated by the ubiquitin-proteasome pathway. The cannabinoid receptor full agonist (R)-(+)-[2,3-dihydro-5-methyl-3-[(4-morpholinyl)methyl] pyrrolo-[1,2,3-de]-1,4-benzoxazin-6-yl](1-napthalenyl)methanone monomethanesulfonate (WIN55,212-2; EC50=2.5±0.5 nM) and the partial agonist Δ9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC; EC50=9±3 nM) inhibited PSD loss in a manner reversed by the CB1 receptor antagonist rimonabant. The protection was mimicked by inhibition of presynaptic Ca2+ channels and WIN55,212-2 did not prevent PSD loss elicited by direct application of glutamate, suggesting a presynaptic mechanism. Prolonged exposure to WIN55,212-2, but not THC, desensitized the protective effect. Treating cells that had undergone PSD loss with WIN55,212-2 reversed the loss and enabled recovery of a full compliment of synapses. The modulation of synaptic number by acute and prolonged exposure to cannabinoids may account for some of the effects of these drugs on the plasticity, survival and function of neural networks.
PMCID: PMC2398764  PMID: 18310474
Neuroscience  2008;153(3):700-708.
Src family protein kinases (SFKs)-mediated tyrosine-phosphorylation regulates N-methyl-D-aspartate (NMDA) receptor synaptic function. Some members of the membrane-associated guanylate kinase (MAGUK) family of proteins bind to both SFKs and NMDA receptors, but it is unclear whether the MAGUK family of proteins is required for SFKs-mediated tyrosine-phosphorylation of the NMDA receptors. Here, we showed by co-immunoprecipitation that PSD-93, a member of the MAGUK family of proteins, interacts with the NMDA receptor subunits NR2A and NR2B as well as with Fyn, a member of the SFKs, in mouse cerebral cortex. Using a biochemical fractionation approach to isolate subcellular compartments revealed that the expression of Fyn, but not of other members of the SFKs (Lyn, Src, and Yes), was significantly decreased in synaptosomal membrane fractions derived from the cerebral cortex of PSD-93 knockout mice. Interestingly, we found that PSD-93 disruption causes reduction of tyrosine-phosphorylated NR2A and NR2B in the same fraction. Moreover, PSD-93 deletion markedly blocked the SFKs-mediated increase in tyrosine-phosphorylated NR2A and NR2B through the protein kinase C pathway after induction with 4β-PMA in cultured cortical neurons. Our findings indicate that PSD-93 appears to mediate tyrosine-phosphorylation of the NMDA receptors and synaptic localization of Fyn.
PMCID: PMC2696054  PMID: 18423999
Src family tyrosine kinases; Fyn; MAGUK; PSD-95; NR2A; NR2B
6.  Chronic Alcohol Exposure Alters Behavioral and Synaptic Plasticity of the Rodent Prefrontal Cortex 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(5):e37541.
In the present study, we used a mouse model of chronic intermittent ethanol (CIE) exposure to examine how CIE alters the plasticity of the medial prefrontal cortex (mPFC). In acute slices obtained either immediately or 1-week after the last episode of alcohol exposure, voltage-clamp recording of excitatory post-synaptic currents (EPSCs) in mPFC layer V pyramidal neurons revealed that CIE exposure resulted in an increase in the NMDA/AMPA current ratio. This increase appeared to result from a selective increase in the NMDA component of the EPSC. Consistent with this, Western blot analysis of the postsynaptic density fraction showed that while there was no change in expression of the AMPA GluR1 subunit, NMDA NR1 and NRB subunits were significantly increased in CIE exposed mice when examined immediately after the last episode of alcohol exposure. Unexpectedly, this increase in NR1 and NR2B was no longer observed after 1-week of withdrawal in spite of a persistent increase in synaptic NMDA currents. Analysis of spines on the basal dendrites of layer V neurons revealed that while the total density of spines was not altered, there was a selective increase in the density of mushroom-type spines following CIE exposure. Examination of NMDA-receptor mediated spike-timing-dependent plasticity (STDP) showed that CIE exposure was associated with altered expression of long-term potentiation (LTP). Lastly, behavioral studies using an attentional set-shifting task that depends upon the mPFC for optimal performance revealed deficits in cognitive flexibility in CIE exposed mice when tested up to 1-week after the last episode of alcohol exposure. Taken together, these observations are consistent with those in human alcoholics showing protracted deficits in executive function, and suggest these deficits may be associated with alterations in synaptic plasticity in the mPFC.
PMCID: PMC3364267  PMID: 22666364
7.  Hippocampal N-Methyl-D-Aspartate Receptor Subunit Expression Profiles in a Mouse Model of Prenatal Alcohol Exposure 
Although several reports have been published showing prenatal ethanol exposure is associated with alterations in N-methyl-D-aspartate (NMDA) receptor subunit levels and, in a few cases, subcellular distribution, results of these studies are conflicting.
We used semi-quantitative immunoblotting techniques to analyze NMDA receptor NR1, NR2A, and NR2B subunit levels in the adult mouse hippocampal formation isolated from offspring of dams who consumed moderate amounts of ethanol throughout pregnancy. We employed subcellular fractionation and immunoprecipitation techniques to isolate synaptosomal membrane- and postsynaptic density protein-95 (PSD-95)-associated pools of receptor subunits.
We found that, compared to control animals, fetal alcohol-exposed (FAE) adult mice had: (i) increased synaptosomal membrane NR1 levels with no change in association of this subunit with PSD-95 and no difference in total NR1 expression in tissue homogenates; (ii) decreased NR2A subunit levels in hippocampal homogenates, but no alterations in synaptosomal membrane NR2A levels and no change in NR2A-PSD-95 association; and (iii) no change in tissue homogenate or synaptosomal membrane NR2B levels but a reduction in PSD-95-associated NR2B subunits. No alterations were found in mRNA levels of NMDA receptor subunits suggesting that prenatal alcohol-associated differences in subunit protein levels are the result of differences in post-transcriptional regulation of subunit localization.
Our results demonstrate that prenatal alcohol exposure induces selective changes in NMDA receptor subunit levels in specific subcellular locations in the adult mouse hippocampal formation. Of particular interest is the finding of decreased PSD-95-associated NR2B levels, suggesting that synaptic NR2B-containing NMDA receptor concentrations are reduced in FAE animals. This result is consistent with various biochemical, physiological, and behavioral findings that have been linked with prenatal alcohol exposure.
PMCID: PMC3600588  PMID: 19951292
NMDA Receptor; Prenatal Alcohol; Hippocampus; NR2A; NR2B
8.  NMDA receptor desensitization regulated by direct binding to PDZ1-2 domains of PSD-95 
Journal of neurophysiology  2008;99(6):3052-3062.
Regulation of NMDA receptor (NMDAR) activity by desensitization is important in physiological and pathological states; NMDAR desensitization contributes in shaping synaptic responses and may be protective by limiting calcium influx during sustained glutamate insults. We previously reported that glycine-independent desensitization decreases during hippocampal neuronal development, correlating with NMDAR synaptic localization and association with post-synaptic density 95 (PSD-95). PSD-95/Discs large/zona occludens (PDZ)-1,2 domains of PSD-95 bind to the C-terminus of NMDAR NR2 subunits. The role of PSD-95 in anchoring signaling proteins near NMDARs is well documented. To determine if PSD-95-induced changes in NMDAR desensitization occur because of direct binding to NR2 or due to recruitment of regulatory proteins, we tested the effects of various PSD-95 constructs on NMDAR currents in human embryonic kidney 293 (HEK293) cells and neurons. In HEK cells, wild-type PSD-95 significantly reduced wild-type NMDAR desensitization without altering currents of NMDARs containing NR2A-S1462A, a mutation that abolishes PSD-95 binding. The PSD-95 N-terminus truncated after the PDZ1-2 domains was sufficient for this effect in neurons with low endogenous PSD-95 levels; in NMDAR-expressing HEK cells, the effect persisted when PSD-95 multimerization was eliminated. Moreover, other PSD-95 family members with highly homologous PDZ1-2 domains significantly reduced NMDAR desensitization. In mature neurons, disruption of PSD-95/NMDAR interaction through protein kinase C (PKC) activation increased desensitization to levels found in immature neurons, and this effect was not due to PKC direct regulation of NMDAR activity. We conclude that direct binding of PSD-95 increases stability of NMDAR responses to agonist exposure in neuronal and non-neuronal cells.
PMCID: PMC3013345  PMID: 18400955
9.  NMDA NR2A and NR2B Receptors in the Rostral Anterior Cingulate Cortex Contribute to Pain-related Aversion in Male Rats 
Pain  2009;146(1-2):183-193.
NMDA receptors, which are implicated in pain processing, are highly expressed in forebrain areas including the anterior cingulate cortex (ACC). The ACC has been implicated in the affective response to noxious stimuli. Using a combination of immunohistochemical staining, western blot, electrophysiological recording and formalin-induced conditioned place avoidance (F-CPA) rat behavioral model that directly reflects the affective component of pain, the present study examined formalin nociceptive conditioning-induced changes in the expressions of NMDA receptor subunits NR1, NR2A, and NR2B in the rostral ACC (rACC) and its possible functional significance. We found that unilateral intraplantar ( injection of dilute formalin with or without contextual conditioning exposure markedly increased the expressions of NMDA receptor subunits NR2A and NR2B but not NR1 in the bilateral rACC. NMDA-evoked currents in rACC neurons were significant greater in formalin-injected rats than that of naïve or normal saline-injected rats. Selectively blocking either NR2A or NR2B subunit in the rACC abolished the acquisition of F-CPA and formalin nociceptive conditioning-induced Fos expression, but did not affect formalin acute nociceptive behaviors and non-nociceptive fear stimulus-induced CPA. These results suggest that both NMDA receptor subunits NR2A and NR2B in the rACC are critically involved in pain-related aversion. Thus, a new strategy targeted at NMDA NR2A or NR2B subunit might be raised for the prevention of pain-related emotional disturbance.
PMCID: PMC2764121  PMID: 19695778
NR1; NR2A; NR2B; Anterior cingulate cortex; Formalin-induced conditioned place avoidance (F-CPA); Fos; Pain affect; Rat
10.  Postsynaptic density protein 95-regulated NR2B tyrosine phosphorylation and interactions of Fyn with NR2B in levodopa-induced dyskinesia rat models 
Abnormality in interactions between N-methyl-d-aspartate (NMDA) receptor and its signaling molecules occurs in the lesioned striatum in Parkinson’s disease (PD) and levodopa-induced dyskinesia (LID). It was reported that Fyn-mediated NR2B tyrosine phosphorylation, can enhance NMDA receptor function. Postsynaptic density protein 95 (PSD-95), one of the synapse-associated proteins, regulates interactions between receptor and downstream-signaling molecules. In light of the relationship between PSD-95, NR2B, and Fyn kinases, does PSD-95 contribute to the overactivity of NMDA receptor function induced by dopaminergic treatment? To further prove the possibility, the effects of regulating the PSD-95 expression on the augmented NR2B tyrosine phosphorylation and on the interactions of Fyn and NR2B in LID rat models were evaluated.
In the present study, parkinsonian rat models were established by injecting 6-hydroxydopamine. Subsequently, valid PD rats were treated with levodopa (50 mg/kg/day with benserazide 12.5 mg/kg/day, twice daily) intraperitoneally for 22 days to create LID rat models. Then, the effect of pretreatment with an intrastriatal injection of the PSD-95mRNA antisense oligonucleotides (PSD-95 ASO) on the rotational response to levodopa challenge was assessed. The effects of pretreatment with an intrastriatal injection of PSD-95 ASO on the augmented NR2B tyrosine phosphorylation and interactions of Fyn with NR2B in the LID rat models were detected by immunoblotting and immunoprecipitation.
Levodopa administration twice daily for 22 days to parkinsonian rats shortened the rotational duration and increased the peak turning responses. The altered rotational responses were attenuated by PSD-95 ASO pretreatment. Meanwhile, PSD-95 ASO pretreatment decreased the level of PSD-95 protein expression and reduced both the augmented NR2B tyrosine phosphorylation and interactions of Fyn with NR2B triggered during the levodopa administration in the lesioned striatum of PD rats. However, the protein levels of Fyn and NR2B showed no difference under the above conditions.
The data demonstrate that the inhibition of PSD-95 protein expression suppressed the interactions of Fyn with NR2B and NR2B tyrosine phosphorylation and subsequently downregulated NMDA receptor overactivation, thus providing benefit for the therapy of LID. Therefore, PSD-95 is important for overactivity of NMDA receptor function due to facilitating NR2B tyrosine phosphorylation dependent on Fyn kinase by regulating interactions of Fyn with NR2B under the pathological conditions of LID.
PMCID: PMC4278739  PMID: 25565773
PSD-95 ASO; NMDA; rotational response
11.  Downregulation of Early Ionotrophic Glutamate Receptor Subunit Developmental Expression as a Mechanism for Observed Plasticity Deficits Following Gestational Exposure to Benzo(a)pyrene 
Neurotoxicology  2007;28(5):965-978.
The focus of this study was to characterize the impact of gestational exposure to benzo(a)pyrene, [B(a)P] on modulation of glutamate receptor subunit expression that is critical for the maintenance of synaptic plasticity mechanisms during hippocampal or cortical development in offspring. Previous studies have demonstrated that hippocampal and/or cortical synaptic plasticity (as measured by long-term potentiation and S1-cortex spontaneous/evoked neuronal activity) and learning behavior (as measured by fixed-ratio performance operant testing) is significantly impaired in polycyclic aromatic or halogenated aromatic hydrocarbon-exposed offspring as compared to controls. These previous studies have also revealed that brain to body weight ratios are greater in exposed offspring relative to controls indicative of intrauterine growth retardation which has been shown to manifest as low birth weight in offspring. Recent epidemiological studies have identified an effect of prenatal exposure to airborne polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons on neurodevelopment in the first 3 Years of life among inner-city children (Perera et al., 2006). The present study utilizes a well-characterized animal model to test the hypothesis that gestational exposure to B(a)P causes dysregulation of developmental ionotropic glutamate receptor subunit expression, namely the N-methyl-D-aspartate receptor (NMDAR) and α-amino-3-hydroxy-5-methyl-4-isoxazole-propionate receptor (AMPAR) both critical to the expression of synaptic plasticity mechanisms. To mechanistically ascertain the basis of B(a)P-induced plasticity perturbations, timed pregnant Long-Evans rats were exposed in an oral subacute exposure regimen to 0, 25 and 150µg/kg BW B(a)P on gestation days 14–17. The first sub-hypothesis tested whether gestational exposure to B(a)P would result in significant disposition in offspring. The second sub-hypothesis tested whether gestational exposure to B(a)P would result in downregulation of early developmental expression of NMDA and AMPA receptor subunits in the hippocampus of offspring as well as in primary neuronal cultures. The results of these studies revealed significant: 1) disposition to the hippocampus and cortex, 2) down-regulation of developmental glutamate receptor mRNA and protein subunit expression and 3) voltage-dependent decreases in the amplitude of inward currents at negative potentials in B(a)P-treated cortical neuronal membranes.
These results suggest that plasticity and behavioral deficits produced as a result of gestational B(a)P exposure are at least, in part, a result of down-regulation of early developmental glutamate receptor subunit expression and function at a time when excitatory synapses are being formed for the first time in the developing central nervous system. The results also predict that in B(a)P-exposed offspring with reduced early glutamate receptor subunit expression, a parallel deficit in behaviors that depend on normal hippocampal or cortical functioning will be observed and that these deficits will be present throughout life.
PMCID: PMC2276633  PMID: 17606297
12.  Aplysia synapse associated protein (APSAP): identification, characterization, and selective interactions with Shaker-type potassium channels 
Journal of neurochemistry  2007;105(3):1006-1018.
The vertebrate post-synaptic density (PSD) is a region of high molecular complexity in which dynamic protein interactions modulate receptor localization and synaptic function. Members of the membrane-associated guanylate kinase (MAGUK) family of proteins represent a major structural and functional component of the vertebrate PSD. In order to investigate the expression and significance of orthologous PSD components associated with the Aplysia sensory neuron-motor neuron synapse, we have cloned an Aplysia Dlg-MAGUK protein, which we identify as Aplysia synapse associated protein (ApSAP). As revealed by western blot, RT-PCR, and immunocytochemical analyses, ApSAP is predominantly expressed in the CNS and is located in both sensory neuron and motor neurons. The overall amino acid sequence of ApSAP is 55– 61% identical to Drosophila Dlg and mammalian Dlg-MAGUK proteins, but is more highly conserved within L27, PDZ, SH3, and guanylate kinase domains. Because these conserved domains mediate salient interactions with receptors and other PSD components of the vertebrate synapse, we performed a series of GST pull-down assays using recombinant C-terminal tail proteins from various Aplysia receptors and channels containing C-terminal PDZ binding sequences. We have found that ApSAP selectively binds to an Aplysia Shaker-type channel AKv1.1, but not to (i) NMDA receptor subunit AcNR1-1, (ii) potassium channel AKv5.1, (iii) receptor tyrosine kinase ApTrkl, (iv) glutamate receptor ApGluR1/4, (v) glutamate receptor ApGluR2/3, or (vi) glutamate receptor ApGluR7. These findings provide preliminary information regarding the expression and interactions of Dlg-MAGUK proteins of the Aplysia CNS, and will inform questions aimed at a functional analysis of how interactions in a protein network such as the PSD may regulate synaptic strength.
PMCID: PMC3909683  PMID: 18182049
Aplysia; Aplysia synapse associated protein; membrane-associated guanylate kinase; post-synaptic density; potassium channel
13.  Prenatal Exposure to Benzo(a)pyrene Impairs Later-Life Cortical Neuronal Function 
Neurotoxicology  2008;29(5):846-854.
Prenatal exposure to environmental contaminants, such as Benzo(a)pyrene [B(a)P] has been shown to impair brain development. The overarching hypothesis of our work is that glutamate receptor subunit expression is crucial for cortical evoked responses and that prenatal B(a)P exposure modulates the temporal developmental expression of glutamatergic receptor subunits in the somatosensory cortex. To characterize prenatal B(a)P exposure on the development of cortical function, pregnant Long Evans rats were exposed to low-level B(a)P (300μg/kg BW) by oral gavage on gestational days 14 to 17. At this exposure dose, there was no significant effect of B(a)P on 1) the number of pups born per litter, 2) the pre-weaning growth curves and 3) initial and final brain to body weight ratios. Control and B(a)P-exposed offspring were profiled for B(a)P metabolites in plasma and whole brain during the pre-weaning period. No detectable levels of metabolites were found in the control offspring. However, a time-dependent decrease in total metabolite concentration was observed in B(a)P-exposed offspring. On PND100-120, cerebrocortical mRNA expression was determined for the glutamatergic NMDA receptor subunit (NR2B) in control and B(a)P-exposed offspring. Neural activity was also recorded from neurons in primary somatic sensory (barrel) cortex. Semiquantitative PCR from B(a)P-exposed offspring revealed a significant 50% reduction in NR2B mRNA expression in B(a)P-exposed offspring relative to controls. Recordings from B(a)P-exposed offspring revealed that N-methyl-D-aspartate (NMDA) receptor -dependent neuronal activity in barrel cortex evoked by whisker stimulation was also significantly reduced (70%) as compared to controls. Analysis showed that the greatest deficit in cortical neuronal responses occurred in the shorter latency epochs from 5-20ms post-stimulus. The results suggest that in utero exposure to benzo(a)pyrene results in diminished mRNA expression of the NMDA NR2B receptor subunit to result in late life deficits in cortical neuronal activity in the offspring. The findings from this study lead to a strong prediction that in utero exposure to benzo(a)pyrene at a time when synapses are first formed and adjusted in strength by activity in the sensory pathways will produce a strong negative effect on brain function in offspring progeny.
PMCID: PMC2752856  PMID: 18761371
polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbon-(PAH); benzo(a)pyrene-B(a)P; World Trade Center (WTC); small for gestational age (SGA); intrauterine growth restriction (IUGR); Bailey Scales of Infant Development (BSID-II); susceptibility-exposure paradigm; somatosensory cortex-S1 cortex; cortical neuronal activity and behavior; alpha-amino-3-hydroxy-5-methyl-4-isoxazolepropionic acid (AMPA); N-methyl-D-aspartate (NMDA); environmental aryl hydrocarbon receptor agonists-eAhR agonist; developmental neurotoxicity
14.  Treatment with a Clinically-Relevant Dose of Methylphenidate Alters NMDA Receptor Composition and Synaptic Plasticity in the Juvenile Rat Prefrontal Cortex 
Methylphenidate (Ritalin, MPH) is the most commonly prescribed psychoactive drug for children. Used to treat attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and for cognitive enhancement in healthy individuals, its cellular mechanisms of action and potential long-term effects are poorly understood. We recently reported that a clinically relevant (1 mg/kg i.p., single injection) dose of MPH significantly decreased neuronal excitability in the juvenile rat prefrontal cortical neurons. Here we further explore the actions of acute treatment with MPH on the level of NMDA receptor subunits and NMDA receptor-mediated short- and long-term synaptic plasticity in the juvenile rat prefrontal cortical neurons. We found that a single dose of MPH treatment (1 mg/kg, intraperitoneal) significantly decreased the surface and total protein levels of NMDA receptor subunits NR1 and NR2B, but not NR2A, in the juvenile prefrontal cortex. In addition, the amplitude, decay time and charge transfer of NMDA receptor-mediated EPSCs were significantly decreased whereas the amplitude and short-term depression of AMPA receptor-mediated EPSCs were significantly increased in the prefrontal neurons. Furthermore, MPH treatment also significantly increased the probability and magnitude of LTP induction, but had only a small effect on LTD induction in juvenile rat prefrontal cortical neurons. Our data thus present a novel mechanism of action of MPH, i.e., changes in glutamatergic receptor-mediated synaptic plasticity following early-life treatment. Furthermore, since a single dosage resulted in significant changes in NMDA receptors, off-label usage by healthy individuals, especially children and adolescents, may result in altered potential for plastic learning.
PMCID: PMC3602399  PMID: 23333502
ADHD; methylphenidate; psychostimulant; excitatory synaptic transmission; synaptic plasticity; juvenile; prefrontal cortex
15.  The Effects of NR2 Subunit-Dependent NMDA Receptor Kinetics on Synaptic Transmission and CaMKII Activation 
PLoS Computational Biology  2008;4(10):e1000208.
N-Methyl-d-aspartic acid (NMDA) receptors are widely expressed in the brain and are critical for many forms of synaptic plasticity. Subtypes of the NMDA receptor NR2 subunit are differentially expressed during development; in the forebrain, the NR2B receptor is dominant early in development, and later both NR2A and NR2B are expressed. In heterologous expression systems, NR2A-containing receptors open more reliably and show much faster opening and closing kinetics than do NR2B-containing receptors. However, conflicting data, showing similar open probabilities, exist for receptors expressed in neurons. Similarly, studies of synaptic plasticity have produced divergent results, with some showing that only NR2A-containing receptors can drive long-term potentiation and others showing that either subtype is capable of driving potentiation. In order to address these conflicting results as well as open questions about the number and location of functional receptors in the synapse, we constructed a Monte Carlo model of glutamate release, diffusion, and binding to NMDA receptors and of receptor opening and closing as well as a model of the activation of calcium-calmodulin kinase II, an enzyme critical for induction of synaptic plasticity, by NMDA receptor-mediated calcium influx. Our results suggest that the conflicting data concerning receptor open probabilities can be resolved, with NR2A- and NR2B-containing receptors having very different opening probabilities. They also support the conclusion that receptors containing either subtype can drive long-term potentiation. We also are able to estimate the number of functional receptors at a synapse from experimental data. Finally, in our models, the opening of NR2B-containing receptors is highly dependent on the location of the receptor relative to the site of glutamate release whereas the opening of NR2A-containing receptors is not. These results help to clarify the previous findings and suggest future experiments to address open questions concerning NMDA receptor function.
Author Summary
Information processing in the brain is carried out by networks of neurons connected by synapses. Synapses can change strength, allowing these networks to adapt and learn, in a process known as synaptic plasticity. At a synapse, an electrical signal in one neuron is converted into a chemical signal, carried by a neurotransmitter, which is in turn converted into electrical and chemical signals in another neuron by specialized proteins called receptors. One such protein, the N-methyl-d-aspartic acid (NMDA) receptor, is particularly important for plasticity, due to its ability to detect the voltage of the cell receiving the neurotransmitter signal and to the fact that it allows calcium, an important signaling molecule, to enter the cell. Here we use computational modeling to investigate the role of one part of the NMDA receptor: the NR2 subunit. The subunit has various forms, and which of these forms are present in the NMDA receptor can strongly affect the kinetics and other properties of the receptor. We show that, along with changing the kinetics of the receptor, changing the NR2 subunit affects the reliability of the receptor, its ability to respond to large stimuli, and its spatial response properties. These results have implications for synaptic transmission and plasticity.
PMCID: PMC2563690  PMID: 18974824
16.  Ephrin-A5 and EphA5 Interaction Induces Synaptogenesis during Early Hippocampal Development 
PLoS ONE  2010;5(8):e12486.
Synaptogenesis is a fundamental step in neuronal development. For spiny glutamatergic synapses in hippocampus and cortex, synaptogenesis involves adhesion of pre and postsynaptic membranes, delivery and anchorage of pre and postsynaptic structures including scaffolds such as PSD-95 and NMDA and AMPA receptors, which are glutamate-gated ion channels, as well as the morphological maturation of spines. Although electrical activity-dependent mechanisms are established regulators of these processes, the mechanisms that function during early development, prior to the onset of electrical activity, are unclear. The Eph receptors and ephrins provide cell contact-dependent pathways that regulate axonal and dendritic development. Members of the ephrin-A family are glycosyl-phosphatidylinositol-anchored to the cell surface and activate EphA receptors, which are receptor tyrosine kinases.
Methodology/Principal Findings
Here we show that ephrin-A5 interaction with the EphA5 receptor following neuron-neuron contact during early development of hippocampus induces a complex program of synaptogenic events, including expression of functional synaptic NMDA receptor-PSD-95 complexes plus morphological spine maturation and the emergence of electrical activity. The program depends upon voltage-sensitive calcium channel Ca2+ fluxes that activate PKA, CaMKII and PI3 kinase, leading to CREB phosphorylation and a synaptogenic program of gene expression. AMPA receptor subunits, their scaffolds and electrical activity are not induced. Strikingly, in contrast to wild type, stimulation of hippocampal slices from P6 EphA5 receptor functional knockout mice yielded no NMDA receptor currents.
These studies suggest that ephrin-A5 and EphA5 signals play a necessary, activity-independent role in the initiation of the early phases of synaptogenesis. The coordinated expression of the NMDAR and PSD-95 induced by eprhin-A5 interaction with EphA5 receptors may be the developmental switch that induces expression of AMPAR and their interacting proteins and the transition to activity-dependent synaptic regulation.
PMCID: PMC2930854  PMID: 20824214
17.  Loose ligation of the rat sciatic nerve elicits early accumulation of Shank1 protein in the postsynaptic density of spinal dorsal horn neurons 
Pain  2010;149(1):152-159.
Plasticity in the spinal dorsal horn may contribute to the development of pain following peripheral nerve injury. Shank proteins are a constituent family of the post-synaptic density (PSD), and they may play a role in synaptic plasticity through activity-dependent synaptic remodeling and growth. In this study we examined the early consequences of the loose ligation of the sciatic nerve on Shank1 protein and message levels in the PSD of spinal dorsal horn neurons.
Four hours after sciatic ligation, the protein levels of Shank1 increased in the ipsilateral PSD of ligated animals. In contrast, no changes were detected in the contralateral PSD of these ligated animals, or either the ipsilateral or contralateral PSD of sham-operated animals. Shank1 was linked to the PSD marker protein PSD-95 and the NR2B subunit of NMDA receptors. The ligated animals also exhibited two early signs of pain behavior, a shift in weight bearing and thermal hyperalgesia. There was no overall change in Shank1 message in either ligated or sham-operated animals. The accumulation of Shank1 in the PSD was abolished by intrathecal pre-treatment with anisomycin or Shank1 siRNA but not non-target siRNA. The same pre-treatment prevented both of the early signs of pain behavior. Intrathecal pre-treatment with either MK-801 or U0126 similarly prevented the Shank1 accumulation and alleviated both of the behavioral signs of pain.
The early accumulation of Shank1 in the PSD of dorsal horn neurons may be a necessary step in the injury-associated plasticity that in time leads to the development of persistent pain.
PMCID: PMC2836861  PMID: 20171009
Chronic constriction injury; Glutamate receptors; Neuropathic pain; Nociception; Structural proteins; Synaptic plasticity
18.  Downregulation of Src-kinase and glutamate-receptor phosphorylation after traumatic brain injury 
Phosphorylation of N-methyl-D-aspartate (NMDA) receptors is a major regulatory mechanism underlying synaptic plasticity. However, changes in NMDA receptors and phosphorylation after traumatic brain injury (TBI) remain incompletely understood. Using an animal TBI model, we observed that the protein level of NMDA receptor subunit NR2B was downregulated in synaptosomal fractions obtained from the ipsilateral neocortical injury region, whereas the levels of NR2A, NR1, and PSD93 were not significantly altered at 4 and 24 hours after TBI. Further investigation showed that tyrosine phosphorylations of NR2B Y1472 and PSD93 Y340 in synaptosomal fractions were significantly decreased relative to their total protein level after TBI. Correspondingly, phosphorylation of the Src-kinase-inhibitory site Y527 was increased, whereas phosphorylation of the activation site Y416 was decreased, indicating that the activity of Src kinase is significantly inhibited after TBI. In comparison, other Src family kinase substrates of NMDA receptor, NR2A Y1246, NR2A Y1325, and NR2B Y1070 were not obviously affected after TBI. The results suggest that TBI downregulates the Src-kinase-mediated phosphorylation of NR2 and PSD93 to destabilize the synaptic localization of NMDA receptors. Therefore, post-TBI loss of NMDA receptors may contribute to the depression of synaptic activity after TBI.
PMCID: PMC3790935  PMID: 23838828
NMDA receptor; PSD93; Src family kinases; traumatic brain injury; tyrosine phosphorylation
19.  Distinct expression of synaptic NR2A and NR2B in the central nervous system and impaired morphine tolerance and physical dependence in mice deficient in postsynaptic density-93 protein 
Molecular Pain  2008;4:45.
Postsynaptic density (PSD)-93, a neuronal scaffolding protein, binds to and clusters N-methyl-D-aspartate receptor (NMDAR) subunits NR2A and NR2B at cellular membranes in vitro. However, the roles of PSD-93 in synaptic NR2A and NR2B targeting in the central nervous system and NMDAR-dependent physiologic and pathologic processes are still unclear. We report here that PSD-93 deficiency significantly decreased the amount of NR2A and NR2B in the synaptosomal membrane fractions derived from spinal cord dorsal horn and forebrain cortex but did not change their levels in the total soluble fraction from either region. However, PSD-93 deficiency did not markedly change the amounts of NR2A and NR2B in either synaptosomal or total soluble fractions from cerebellum. In mice deficient in PSD-93, morphine dose-dependent curve failed to shift significantly rightward as it did in wild type (WT) mice after acute and chronic morphine challenge. Unlike WT mice, PSD-93 knockout mice also showed marked losses of NMDAR-dependent morphine analgesic tolerance and associated abnormal sensitivity in response to mechanical, noxious thermal, and formalin-induced inflammatory stimuli after repeated morphine injection. In addition, PSD-93 knockout mice displayed dramatic loss of jumping activity, a typical NMDAR-mediated morphine withdrawal abstinence behavior. These findings indicate that impaired NMDAR-dependent neuronal plasticity following repeated morphine injection in PSD-93 knockout mice is attributed to PSD-93 deletion-induced alterations of synaptic NR2A and NR2B expression in dorsal horn and forebrain cortex neurons. The selective effect of PSD-93 deletion on synaptic NMDAR expression in these two major pain-related regions might provide the better strategies for the prevention and treatment of opioid tolerance and physical dependence.
PMCID: PMC2576175  PMID: 18851757
20.  Distinct Domains within PSD-95 Mediate Synaptic Incorporation, Stabilization and Activity-Dependent Trafficking 
The postsynaptic density (PSD) consists of a lattice-like array of interacting proteins that organizes and stabilizes receptors, ion channels, structural, and signaling proteins necessary for synaptic function. To study the stabilization of proteins within this structure and the contribution of these proteins to the integrity of the PSD, we tagged synaptic proteins with photoactivatable GFP (PAGFP) and used combined 2-photon laser scanning microscopy (2PLSM) and 2-photon laser photoactivation (2PLP) to measure their rate of turnover in individual spines of rat CA1 pyramidal neurons. We find that PSD-95 is highly stable within the spine, more so than other PSD-associated proteins such as CaMKIIα, CaMKIIβ, GluR2 and Stargazin. Analysis of a series of PSD-95 mutants revealed that distinct domains stabilize PSD-95 within the PSD and contribute to PSD formation. Stabilization of PSD-95 within the PSD requires N-terminal palmitoylation and protein interactions mediated by the 1st and 2nd PDZ domains whereas formation of a stable lattice of PSD-95 molecules within the PSD additionally requires the C-terminal SH3 domain. Furthermore, in a PDZ domain 1 and 2 dependent manner, activation of NMDA receptors with a chemical LTD protocol rapidly destabilizes PSD-95 and causes a subset of the PSD-95 molecules previously anchored in the spine to be released. Thus, through the analysis of rates of exchange of synaptic PSD-95, we determine separate domains of PSD-95 that play specific roles in establishing a stable postsynaptic lattice, in allowing proteins to enter this lattice, and in reorganizing this structure in response to plasticity-inducing stimuli.
PMCID: PMC2787089  PMID: 19828799
Synaptic plasticity; Postsynaptic; LTD [Long-Term Depression]; Hippocampus; Dendritic spine; Structure; Palmitate
21.  Prenatal activation of Toll-like receptors-3 by administration of the viral mimetic poly(I:C) changes synaptic proteins, N-methyl-D-aspartate receptors and neurogenesis markers in offspring 
Molecular Brain  2012;5:22.
There is mounting evidence for a neurodevelopmental basis for disorders such as autism and schizophrenia, in which prenatal or early postnatal events may influence brain development and predispose the young to develop these and related disorders. We have now investigated the effect of a prenatal immune challenge on brain development in the offspring. Pregnant rats were treated with the double-stranded RNA polyinosinic:polycytidylic acid (poly(I:C); 10 mg/kg) which mimics immune activation occurring after activation of Toll-like receptors-3 (TLR3) by viral infection. Injections were made in late gestation (embryonic days E14, E16 and E18), after which parturition proceeded naturally and the young were allowed to develop up to the time of weaning at postnatal day 21 (P21). The brains of these animals were then removed to assess the expression of 13 different neurodevelopmental molecules by immunoblotting.
Measurement of cytokine levels in the maternal blood 5 hours after an injection of poly(I:C) showed significantly increased levels of monocyte chemoattractant protein-1 (MCP-1), confirming immune activation. In the P21 offspring, significant changes were detected in the expression of GluN1 subunits of NMDA receptors, with no difference in GluN2A or GluN2B subunits or the postsynaptic density protein PSD-95 and no change in the levels of the related small GTPases RhoA or RhoB, or the NMDA receptor modulator EphA4. Among presynaptic molecules, a significant increase in Vesicle Associated Membrane Protein-1 (VAMP-1; synaptobrevin) was seen, with no change in synaptophysin or synaptotagmin. Proliferating Cell Nuclear Antigen (PCNA), as well as the neurogenesis marker doublecortin were unchanged, although Sox-2 levels were increased, suggesting possible changes in the rate of new cell differentiation.
The results reveal the induction by prenatal poly(I:C) of selective molecular changes in the brains of P21 offspring, affecting primarily molecules associated with neuronal development and synaptic transmission. These changes may contribute to the behavioural abnormalities that have been reported in adult animals after exposure to poly(I:C) and which resemble symptoms seen in schizophrenia and related disorders.
PMCID: PMC3496691  PMID: 22681877
Poly(I:C); Development; Synaptophysin; Synaptotagmin; Rho proteins; Eph receptors
22.  Mechanisms involved in systemic nicotine-induced glutamatergic synaptic plasticity on dopamine neurons in the ventral tegmental area 
Systemic exposure to nicotine induces glutamatergic synaptic plasticity on dopamine (DA) neurons in the ventral tegmental area (VTA), but mechanisms are largely unknown. Here, we report that single, systemic exposure in rats to nicotine (0.17 mg/kg free base) increases the ratio of DA neuronal currents mediated by AMPA relative to NMDA receptors (AMPA/NMDA ratio) assessed 24 hr later, based on slice patch recording. The AMPA/NMDA ratio increase is evident within 1 hr and lasts for at least 72 hr after nicotine exposure (and up to 8 days after repeated nicotine administration). This effect cannot be prevented by systemic injection of either α7-nAChR-selective (methyllycaconitine, MLA) or β2*-nAChR-selective (mecamylamine, MEC) antagonists but is prevented by co-injection of MLA and MEC. In either nAChR α7 or β2 subunit knock-out mice, systemic exposure to nicotine still increases the AMPA/NMDA ratio. Pre-injection in rats of a NMDA receptor antagonist (MK801), but neither DA receptor antagonists (SCH23390 plus haloperidol) nor a calcineurin inhibitor (cyclosporine), prevents the nicotine-induced increase in AMPA/NMDA ratio. After systemic exposure to nicotine, glutamatergic (but not GABAergic) transmission onto rat VTA DA neuronal inputs is enhanced. Correspondingly, DA neuronal firing measured 24 hr after nicotine exposure using extracellular single unit recording in vivo is significantly faster, and there is conversion of silent to active DA neurons. Collectively, these findings demonstrate that systemic nicotine acting via either α7- or β2*-nAChRs increases pre- and post-synaptic glutamatergic function, and consequently initiates glutamatergic synaptic plasticity, which may be an important, early neuronal adaptation in nicotine reward and reinforcement.
PMCID: PMC2995497  PMID: 20943922
nicotine; nicotinic acetylcholine receptor; AMPA receptor; synaptic plasticity; dopamine neuron; patch-clamp
23.  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.
PMCID: PMC2655629  PMID: 18992785
major depressive disorder; glutamate receptors; postmortem; postsynaptic density protein; anterior prefrontal cortex
24.  Glutamate signaling proteins and tyrosine hydroxylase in the locus coeruleus of alcoholics 
Journal of psychiatric research  2007;42(5):348-355.
It has been postulated that alcoholism is associated with abnormalities in glutamatergic neurotransmission. This study examined the density of glutamate NMDA receptor subunits and its associated proteins in the noradrenergic locus coeruleus (LC) in deceased alcoholic subjects. Our previous research indicated that the NMDA receptor in the human LC is composed of obligatory NR1 and regulatory NR2C subunits. At synapses, NMDA receptors are stabilized through interactions with postsynaptic density protein (PSD-95). PSD-95 provides structural and functional coupling of the NMDA receptor with neuronal nitric oxide synthase (nNOS), an intracellular mediator of NMDA receptor activation. LC tissue was obtained from 10 alcohol-dependent subjects and 8 psychiatrically healthy controls. Concentrations of NR1 and NR2C subunits, as well as PSD-95 and nNOS, were measured using Western blotting. In addition we have examined tyrosine hydroxylase (TH), the rate-limiting enzyme in the synthesis of norepinephrine. The amount of NR1 was lower in the rostral (−30%) and middle (−41%)portions of the LC of alcoholics as compared to control subjects. No differences in the amounts of NR2C, PSD-95, nNOS and TH were detected comparing alcoholic to control subjects. Lower levels of NR1 subunit of the NMDA receptor in the LC implicates altered glutamate-norepinephrine interactions in alcoholism.
PMCID: PMC2292639  PMID: 17481661
glutamate; NMDA receptor; postsynaptic density protein 95; neuronal nitric oxide synthase; tyrosine hydroxylase; locus coeruleus
25.  Dissecting the Contribution of Individual Receptor Subunits to the Enhancement of N-methyl-d-Aspartate Currents by Dopamine D1 Receptor Activation in Striatum 
Dopamine, via activation of D1 receptors, enhances N-methyl-d-aspartate (NMDA) receptor-mediated responses in striatal medium-sized spiny neurons. However, the role of specific NMDA receptor subunits in this enhancement remains unknown. Here we used genetic and pharmacological tools to dissect the contribution of NR1 and NR2A/B subunits to NMDA responses and their modulation by dopamine receptors. We demonstrate that D1 enhancement of NMDA responses does not occur or is significantly reduced in mice with genetic knock-down of NR1 subunits, indicating a critical role of these subunits. Interestingly, spontaneous and evoked α-amino-3-hydroxyl-5-methyl-4-isoxazole-propionic acid (AMPA) receptor-mediated responses were significantly enhanced in NR1 knock-down animals, probably as a compensatory mechanism for the marked reduction in NMDA receptor function. The NMDA receptor subunits NR2A and NR2B played differential roles in D1 modulation. Whereas genetic deletion or pharmacological blockade of NR2A subunits enhanced D1 potentiation of NMDA responses, blockade of NR2B subunits reduced this potentiation, suggesting that these regulatory subunits of the NMDA receptor counterbalance their respective functions. In addition, using D1 and D2 receptor EGFP-expressing mice, we demonstrate that NR2A subunits contribute more to NMDA responses in D1-MSSNs, whereas NR2B subunits contribute more to NMDA responses in D2 cells. The differential contribution of discrete receptor subunits to NMDA responses and dopamine modulation in the striatum has important implications for synaptic plasticity and selective neuronal vulnerability in disease states.
PMCID: PMC3095815  PMID: 21617735
NMDA; dopamine; receptor subunits; modulation; striatum

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