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J Biol Chem. 2005 Jun 3;280(22):21588-93. Epub 2005 Mar 24.

Regulation of N-methyl-D-aspartate receptors by calpain in cortical neurons.

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Department of Physiology, Okayama University Graduate School of Medicine and Dentistry, Okayama 700-8558, Japan.


The N-methyl-D-aspartate (NMDA) receptor is a cation channel highly permeable to calcium and plays critical roles in governing normal and pathologic functions in neurons. Calcium entry through NMDA receptors (NMDARs) can lead to the activation of the Ca2+-dependent protease, calpain. Here we investigated the involvement of calpain in regulation of NMDAR channel function. After prolonged (5-min) treatment with NMDA or glutamate, the whole-cell NMDAR-mediated current was significantly reduced in both acutely dissociated and cultured cortical pyramidal neurons. The down-regulation of NMDAR current was blocked by bath application of selective calpain inhibitors. Intracellular injection of a specific calpain inhibitory peptide also eliminated the down-regulation of NMDAR current induced by prolonged NMDA treatment. In contrast, dynamin inhibitory peptide had no effect on the depression of NMDAR current, suggesting the lack of involvement of dynamin/clathrin-mediated NMDAR internalization in this process. Immunoblotting analysis showed that the NR2A and NR2B subunits of NMDARs were markedly degraded in cultured cortical neurons treated with glutamate, and the degradation of NR2 subunits was prevented by calpain inhibitors. Taken together, our results suggest that prolonged activation of NMDARs in neurons activates calpain, and activated calpain in turn down-regulates the function of NMDARs, which provides a neuroprotective mechanism against NMDAR overstimulation accompanying ischemia and stroke.

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