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J Neurochem. 2007 Jan;100(1):1-11. Epub 2006 Oct 2.

Regulation of mitogen-activated protein kinases by glutamate receptors.

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Department of Basic Medical Science, University of Missouri-Kansas City, School of Medicine, Kansas City, Missouri, USA.


Glutamate receptors regulate gene expression in neurons by activating intracellular signaling cascades that phosphorylate transcription factors within the nucleus. The mitogen-activated protein kinase (MAPK) cascade is one of the best characterized cascades in this regulatory process. The Ca(2+)-permeable ionotropic glutamate receptor, mainly the NMDA receptor subtype, activates MAPKs through a biochemical route involving the Ca(2+)-sensitive Ras-guanine nucleotide releasing factor, Ca(2+)/calmodulin-dependent protein kinase II, and phosphoinositide 3-kinase. The metabotropic glutamate receptor (mGluR), however, activates MAPKs primarily through a Ca(2+)-insensitve pathway involving the transactivation of receptor tyrosine kinases. The adaptor protein Homer also plays a role in this process. As an information superhighway between surface glutamate receptors and transcription factors in the nucleus, active MAPKs phosphorylate specific transcription factors (Elk-1 and CREB), and thereby regulate distinct programs of gene expression. The regulated gene expression contributes to the development of multiple forms of synaptic plasticity related to long-lasting changes in memory function and addictive properties of drugs of abuse. This review, by focusing on new data from recent years, discusses the signaling mechanisms by which different types of glutamate receptors activate MAPKs, features of each MAPK cascade in regulating gene expression, and the importance of glutamate/MAPK-dependent synaptic plasticity in memory and addiction.

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