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J Neurosci. 2011 Dec 14;31(50):18453-63. doi: 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.3824-11.2011.

Searching for presynaptic NMDA receptors in the nucleus accumbens.

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Program in Neuroscience, Washington State University, Pullman, Washington 99164, USA.


The nucleus accumbens shell (NAc) is a key brain region mediating emotional and motivational learning. In rodent models, dynamic alterations have been observed in synaptic NMDA receptors (NMDARs) within the NAc following incentive stimuli, and some of these alterations are critical for acquiring new emotional/motivational states. NMDARs are prominent molecular devices for controlling neural plasticity and memory formation. Although synaptic NMDARs are predominately located postsynaptically, recent evidence suggests that they may also exist at presynaptic terminals and reshape excitatory synaptic transmission by regulating presynaptic glutamate release. However, it remains unknown whether presynaptic NMDARs exist in the NAc and contribute to emotional and motivational learning. In an attempt to identify presynaptically located NMDARs in the NAc, the present study uses slice electrophysiology combined with pharmacological and genetic tools to examine the physiological role of the putative presynaptic NMDARs in rats. Our results show that application of glycine, the glycine-site agonist of NMDARs, potentiated presynaptic release of glutamate at excitatory synapses on NAc neurons, whereas application of 5,7-dichlorokynurenic acid or 7-chlorokynurenic acid, the glycine-site antagonists of NMDARs, produced the opposite effect. However, these seemingly presynaptic NMDAR-mediated effects could not be prevented by application of d-APV, the glutamate-site NMDAR antagonist, and were still present in the mice in which NMDAR NR1 or NR3 subunits were genetically deleted. Thus, rather than suggesting the existence of presynaptic NMDARs, our results support the idea that an unidentified type of glycine-activated substrate may account for the presynaptic effects appearing to be mediated by NMDARs.

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