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Nature. 1989 Mar 30;338(6214):422-4.

Glycine enhances NMDA-receptor mediated synaptic potentials in neocortical slices.

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  • 1Department of Physiology, Royal Free Hospital School of Medicine, London, UK.


One class of excitatory amino-acid receptors, the N-methyl-D-aspartate (NMDA) receptors, mediates transmission at a small, but important, group of synapses in the neocortex. These receptors are implicated in neuronal plasticity during development in young mammals and in memory acquisition in adults. Recently, responses of isolated membrane patches to NMDA were shown to be greatly enhanced by glycine. This, together with the demonstration that the strychnine-insensitive glycine-binding site is distinct from, but linked to, the NMDA receptor has excited intense interest in glycine as a synaptic modulator. Before proposing a physiological function, however, it is important to determine whether glycine could enhance synaptic responses to NMDA receptor activation in intact, adult tissue. An earlier study failed to demonstrate enhancement of NMDA responses when glycine was applied and it was proposed that in intact tissue the high-affinity glycine site was already saturated by endogenous glycine. It remained possible that glycine concentrations can be maintained at low levels close to synaptic receptors. We have examined responses of neurons in slices of adult neocortex to focal applications of excitatory amino acids and glycine and report enhancement by glycine of NMDA receptor-mediated excitatory postsynaptic potentials.

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