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Prog Neurobiol. 2010 May;91(1):23-37. doi: 10.1016/j.pneurobio.2010.01.004. Epub 2010 Jan 25.

Influence of the NR3A subunit on NMDA receptor functions.

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Curriculum in Neurobiology, Neuroscience Center, Neurodevelopmental Disorders Research Center, Chapel Hill, NC 27599, USA.


Various combinations of subunits assemble to form the NMDA-type glutamate receptor (NMDAR), generating diversity in its functions. Here we review roles of the unique NMDAR subunit, NR3A, which acts in a dominant-negative manner to suppress receptor activity. NR3A-containing NMDARs display striking regional and temporal expression specificity, and, unlike most other NMDAR subtypes, they have a low conductance, are only modestly permeable to Ca(2+), and pass current at hyperpolarized potentials in the presence of magnesium. While glutamate activates triheteromeric NMDARs composed of NR1/NR2/NR3A subunits, glycine is sufficient to activate diheteromeric NR1/NR3A-containing receptors. NR3A dysfunction may contribute to neurological disorders involving NMDARs, and the subunit offers an attractive therapeutic target given its distinct pharmacological and structural properties.

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