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J Neurosci. 2006 Feb 8;26(6):1721-9.

Distinct roles for Ras-guanine nucleotide-releasing factor 1 (Ras-GRF1) and Ras-GRF2 in the induction of long-term potentiation and long-term depression.

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  • 1Department of Biochemistry, Sackler School of Graduate Biomedical Sciences, Tufts University School of Medicine, Boston, Massachusetts 02111, USA.


NMDA-type glutamate receptors (NMDARs) contribute to many forms of long-term potentiation (LTP) and long-term depression (LTD). NMDARs are heteromers containing calcium-permeating neuronal receptor 1 (NR1) subunits and a variety of NR2 subunits. Evidence suggests that, in the CA1 region of the hippocampus, NR2A-containing NMDARs promote LTP whereas NR2B-containing receptors promote LTD. However, the calcium sensors that distinguish between these signals to promote the appropriate form of synaptic plasticity are not known. Ras-guanine nucleotide-releasing factor 1 (Ras-GRF1) and Ras-GRF2 are highly similar calcium-stimulated exchange factors that activate Ras and Rac GTPases. Here, using a set of Ras-GRF knock-out mice, we show that Ras-GRF2 contributes predominantly to the induction of NMDAR-dependent LTP, whereas Ras-GRF1 contributes predominantly to the induction of NMDAR-dependent LTD in the CA1 region of the hippocampus of postpubescent mice (postnatal days 25-36). In contrast, neither Ras-GRF protein influences synaptic plasticity in prepubescent mice (postnatal days 14-18). Ras-GRF2 mediates signaling from (R)-[(S)-1-(4-bromo-phenyl)-ethylamino]-(2,3-dioxo-1,2,3,4-tetrahydroquinoxalin-5-yl)-methyl-phosphonic acid-sensitive (NVP-AAM077-sensitive) (NR2A-containing) NMDARs to the Ras effector extracellular signal-related protein kinase 1/2 (Erk1/2) mitogen-activated protein (MAP) kinase, a promoter of NMDAR-induced LTP at this site. In contrast, Ras-GRF1 mediates signaling from ifenprodil-sensitive (NR2B-containing) NMDARs to the Rac effector p38 MAP kinase, a promoter of LTD. These findings show that, despite their similar functional domain organization, Ras-GRF1 and Ras-GRF2 mediate opposing forms of synaptic plasticity by coupling different classes of NMDARs to distinct MAP kinase pathways. Moreover, the postnatal appearance of Ras-GRF-dependent LTP and LTD coincides with the emergence of hippocampal-dependent behavior, implying that Ras-GRF proteins contribute to forms of synaptic plasticity that are required specifically for mature hippocampal function.

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