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Neuroscience. 2008 Jan 2;151(1):43-55. Epub 2007 Oct 12.

alpha-Isoform of calcium-calmodulin-dependent protein kinase II and postsynaptic density protein 95 differentially regulate synaptic expression of NR2A- and NR2B-containing N-methyl-d-aspartate receptors in hippocampus.

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Department of Neuroscience, Mount Sinai School of Medicine, New York, NY 10029, USA.


N-methyl-d-aspartate receptors (NMDARs) are critical determinants of bidirectional synaptic plasticity, however, studies of NMDAR function have been based primarily on pharmacological and electrophysiological manipulations, and it is still debated whether there are subunit-selective forms of long-term potentiation (LTP) and long-term depression (LTD). Here we provide ultrastructural analyses of axospinous synapses in cornu ammonis field 1 of hippocampus (CA1) stratum radiatum of transgenic mice with mutations to two key underlying postsynaptic density (PSD) proteins, postsynaptic density protein 95 (PSD-95) and the alpha-isoform of calcium-calmodulin-dependent protein kinase II (alphaCaMKII). Distribution profiles of synaptic proteins in these mice reveal very different patterns of subunit-specific NMDAR localization, which may be related to the divergent phenotypes of the two mutants. In PSD-95, Dlg, ZO-1/Dlg-homologous region (PDZ) 3-truncated mutant mice in which LTD could not be induced but LTP was found to be enhanced, we found a subtle, yet preferential displacement of synaptic N-methyl-d-aspartate receptor subunit 2B (NR2B) subunits in lateral regions of the synapse without affecting changes in the localization of N-methyl-d-aspartate receptor subunit 2A (NR2A) subunits. In persistent inhibitory alphaCaMKII Thr305 substituted with Asp in alpha-isoform of calcium-calmodulin kinase II (T305D) mutant mice with severely impaired LTP but stable LTD expression, we found a selective reduction of NR2A subunits at both the synapse and throughout the cytoplasm of the spine without any effect on the NR2B subunit. In an experiment of mutual exclusivity, neither PSD-95 nor alphaCaMKII localization was found to be affected by mutations to the corresponding PSD protein suggesting that they are functionally independent of the other in the regulation of NR2A- and NR2B-containing NMDARs preceding synaptic activity. Consequently, there may exist at least two distinct PSD-95 and alphaCaMKII-specific NMDAR complexes involved in mediating LTP and LTD through opposing signal transduction pathways in synapses of the hippocampus. The contrasting phenotypes of the PSD-95 and alphaCaMKII mutant mice further establish the prospect of an independent and, possibly, competing mechanism for the regulation of NMDAR-dependent bidirectional synaptic plasticity.

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