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Neuron. 2005 Nov 23;48(4):635-46.

Coupling between NMDA receptor and acid-sensing ion channel contributes to ischemic neuronal death.

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Institute of Neuroscience and Key Laboratory of Neurobiology, Shanghai Institutes for Biological Sciences, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Shanghai 200031, China.


Acid-sensing ion channels (ASICs) composed of ASIC1a subunit exhibit a high Ca(2+) permeability and play important roles in synaptic plasticity and acid-induced cell death. Here, we show that ischemia enhances ASIC currents through the phosphorylation at Ser478 and Ser479 of ASIC1a, leading to exacerbated ischemic cell death. The phosphorylation is catalyzed by Ca(2+)/calmodulin-dependent protein kinase II (CaMKII) activity, as a result of activation of NR2B-containing N-methyl-D-aspartate subtype of glutamate receptors (NMDARs) during ischemia. Furthermore, NR2B-specific antagonist, CaMKII inhibitor, or overexpression of mutated form of ASIC1a with Ser478 or Ser479 replaced by alanine (ASIC1a-S478A, ASIC1a-S479A) in cultured hippocampal neurons prevented ischemia-induced enhancement of ASIC currents, cytoplasmic Ca(2+) elevation, as well as neuronal death. Thus, NMDAR-CaMKII cascade is functionally coupled to ASICs and contributes to acidotoxicity during ischemia. Specific blockade of NMDAR/CaMKII-ASIC coupling may reduce neuronal death after ischemia and other pathological conditions involving excessive glutamate release and acidosis.

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