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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 1996 Mar 5;93(5):1797-802.

Correlation between kinetics and RNA splicing of alpha-amino-3-hydroxy-5-methylisoxazole-4-propionic acid receptors in neocortical neurons.

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  • 1Institut Alfred Fessard, Centre Nationale de la Recherche Scientifique, Gif-sur-Yvette, France.


In the cortex fast excitatory synaptic currents onto excitatory pyramidal neurons and inhibitory nonpyramidal neurons are mediated by alpha-amino-3-hydroxy-5-methylisoxazole-4-propionic acid (AMPA) receptors exhibiting cell-type-specific differences in their kinetic properties. AMPA receptors consist of four subunits (GluR1-4), each existing as two splice variants, flip and flop, which critically affect the desensitization properties of receptors expressed in heterologous systems. Using single cell reverse transcription PCR to analyze the mRNA of AMPA receptor subunits expressed in layers I-III neocortical neurons, we find that 90% of the GluR1-4 in nonpyramidal neurons are flop variants, whereas 92% of the GluR1-4 in pyramidal neurons are flip variants. We also find that nonpyramidal neurons predominantly express GluR1 mRNA (GluR1/GluR1-4 = 59%), whereas pyramidal neurons contain mainly GluR2 mRNA (GluR2/GluR1-4 = 59%). However, the neuron-type-specific splicing is exhibited by all four AMPA receptor subunits. We suggest that the predominance of the flop variants contributes to the faster and more extensive desensitization in nonpyramidal neurons, compared to pyramidal cells where flip variants are dominant. Alternative splicing of AMPA receptors may play an important role in regulating synaptic function in a cell-type-specific manner, without changing permeation properties.

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