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PLoS One. 2011;6(12):e28380. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0028380. Epub 2011 Dec 15.

Simulation of postsynaptic glutamate receptors reveals critical features of glutamatergic transmission.

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Rhenovia Pharma, Mulhouse, France.


Activation of several subtypes of glutamate receptors contributes to changes in postsynaptic calcium concentration at hippocampal synapses, resulting in various types of changes in synaptic strength. Thus, while activation of NMDA receptors has been shown to be critical for long-term potentiation (LTP) and long term depression (LTD) of synaptic transmission, activation of metabotropic glutamate receptors (mGluRs) has been linked to either LTP or LTD. While it is generally admitted that dynamic changes in postsynaptic calcium concentration represent the critical elements to determine the direction and amplitude of the changes in synaptic strength, it has been difficult to quantitatively estimate the relative contribution of the different types of glutamate receptors to these changes under different experimental conditions. Here we present a detailed model of a postsynaptic glutamatergic synapse that incorporates ionotropic and mGluR type I receptors, and we use this model to determine the role of the different receptors to the dynamics of postsynaptic calcium with different patterns of presynaptic activation. Our modeling framework includes glutamate vesicular release and diffusion in the cleft and a glutamate transporter that modulates extracellular glutamate concentration. Our results indicate that the contribution of mGluRs to changes in postsynaptic calcium concentration is minimal under basal stimulation conditions and becomes apparent only at high frequency of stimulation. Furthermore, the location of mGluRs in the postsynaptic membrane is also a critical factor, as activation of distant receptors contributes significantly less to calcium dynamics than more centrally located ones. These results confirm the important role of glutamate transporters and of the localization of mGluRs in postsynaptic sites in their signaling properties, and further strengthen the notion that mGluR activation significantly contributes to postsynaptic calcium dynamics only following high-frequency stimulation. They also provide a new tool to analyze the interactions between metabotropic and ionotropic glutamate receptors.

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