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J Neurosci. 2012 Feb 15;32(7):2552-63. doi: 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.3237-11.2012.

Parasynaptic NMDA receptor signaling couples neuronal glutamate transporter function to AMPA receptor synaptic distribution and stability.

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Department of Biology, Boston University, Boston, Massachusetts 02215, USA.


At synapses, two major processes occur concomitantly after the release of glutamate: activation of AMPA receptors (AMPARs) to conduct synaptic transmission and activation of excitatory amino acid transporters (EAATs) for transmitter removal. Although crosstalk between the receptors and EAATs is conceivable, whether and how the transporter activity affects AMPAR synaptic localization remain unknown. Using cultured hippocampal and cortical rat neurons, we show that inhibition of glutamate transporters leads to rapid reduction in AMPAR synaptic accumulation and total AMPAR abundance. EAAT inactivity also results in elevated internalization and reduced surface expression of AMPARs. The reduction in AMPAR amount is accompanied by receptor ubiquitination and can be blocked by suppression of proteasome activity, indicating the involvement of proteasome-mediated receptor degradation. Consistent with glutamate spillover, effect of EAAT inhibition on AMPAR distribution and stability is dependent on the activation of parasynaptically localized NR2B-containing NMDA receptors (NMDARs). Moreover, we show that neuronal glutamate transporters, especially those localized at the postsynaptic sites, are responsible for the observed effect during EAAT suppression. These results indicate a role for neuron-specific glutamate transporters in AMPAR synaptic localization and stability.

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