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J Neurochem. 2008 Aug;106(4):1900-13. doi: 10.1111/j.1471-4159.2008.05554.x. Epub 2008 Jul 9.

Negative regulation of neurogenesis and spatial memory by NR2B-containing NMDA receptors.

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Laboratory of Cerebrovascular Disease, Nanjing Medical University, and Department of Pharmacology, School of Pharmacy, China Pharmaceutical University, Nanjing, China.


Several lines of evidence suggest involvement of NMDA receptors (NMDARs) in the regulation of neurogenesis in adults and the formation of spatial memory. Functional properties of NMDARs are strongly influenced by the type of NR2 subunits incorporated. In adult forebrain regions such as the hippocampus and cortex, only NR2A and NR2B subunits are available to form the receptor complex with NR1 subunit. NR2B is predominant NR2 subunit in any of rat or human neural stem cells (NSCs). Thus, we suppose that NR2B-containing NMDAR should be critical in regulating adult neurogenesis, and thereby playing a role in the formation of spatial memory. In the cultured NSCs derived from the embryonic brain of rats, NR2B subunit-specific NMDAR antagonist Ro25-6981 increased cell proliferation, whereas MK-801, non-selective open-channel blocker of NMDARs, inhibited cell proliferation. Blockade of NR2B-containing NMDAR stimulated neurogenesis in the adult hippocampus and facilitated the formation of spatial memory. The enhanced spatial memory dropped back to base level when the NR2B antagonist-induced neurogenesis was neutralized by 3'-azido-deoxythymidine, a telomerase inhibitor. In addition, blockade of NR2B inhibited neuronal nitric oxide synthase (nNOS) enzymatic activity. In null mutant mice lacking nNOS gene (nNOS-/-), the effects of NR2B antagonist on neurogenesis disappeared. Moreover, nitric oxide donor DETA/NONOate attenuated and nNOS inhibitor 7-nitroindazole enhanced the effect of Ro 25-6981 on NSCs proliferation. Our findings suggest that NR2B-containing NMDAR subtypes negatively regulate neurogenesis in the adult hippocampus by activating nNOS activity and thereby hinder the formation of spatial memory.

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