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J Comp Neurol. 1999 Sep 20;412(2):292-302.

Immunogold localization of AMPA and NMDA receptors in somatic sensory cortex of albino rat.

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Department of Cell Biology and Anatomy, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, North Carolina 27599, USA.


We performed an electron microscopic study of S-1 cortex by using postembedding immunogold histochemistry to examine the subcellular distribution of alpha-amino-3-hydroxy-5-methylisoxazole-4-propionate (AMPA) receptors (assessed with an antibody recognizing the glutamate receptor 2 and 3 [GluR2 and GluR3] subunits) and to compare this distribution with that of N-methyl-D-aspartate (NMDA) receptors (assessed with an antibody for the NR1 subunit). Both receptors were concentrated at active zones of asymmetric synapses, often directly apposed to presynaptic dense bodies. GluR2/3 showed a bias for long active zones, whereas short active zones expressed GluR2/3 at substantially lower levels; in contrast, labeling for NR1 was independent of synaptic size. Particle counts suggested that synaptic labeling was Poisson distributed and implied that the majority of synapses express both receptors. Quantitative analysis indicates that approximately one-half of synapses express high levels of GluR2/3 and that the remainder express GluR2/3 at a much lower level. Approximately three-fourths of synapses express NR1 at a uniform level; the remainder, which may lack NR1 completely, include synapses with especially large active zones. The present results suggest that the smallest active zones may play a special role in synaptic plasticity.

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