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Behav Brain Res. 2013 Feb 1;238:211-26. doi: 10.1016/j.bbr.2012.10.026. Epub 2012 Oct 24.

Memory in aged mice is rescued by enhanced expression of the GluN2B subunit of the NMDA receptor.

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Molecular and Cellular Biosciences Program, Oregon State University, Corvallis, OR 97331, USA.


The GluN2B subunit of the N-methyl-d-aspartate (NMDA) receptor shows age-related declines in expression across the frontal cortex and hippocampus. This decline is strongly correlated to age-related memory declines. This study was designed to determine if increasing GluN2B subunit expression in the frontal lobe or hippocampus would improve memory in aged mice. Mice were injected bilaterally with either the GluN2B vector, containing cDNA specific for the GluN2B subunit and enhanced green fluorescent protein (eGFP); a control vector or vehicle. Spatial memory, cognitive flexibility, and associative memory were assessed using the Morris water maze. Aged mice, with increased GluN2B subunit expression, exhibited improved long-term spatial memory, comparable to young mice. However, memory was rescued on different days in the Morris water maze; early for hippocampal GluN2B subunit enrichment and later for the frontal lobe. A higher concentration of the GluN2B antagonist, Ro 25-6981, was required to impair long-term spatial memory in aged mice with enhanced GluN2B expression, as compared to aged controls, suggesting there was an increase in the number of GluN2B-containing NMDA receptors. In addition, hippocampal slices from aged mice with increased GluN2B subunit expression exhibited enhanced NMDA receptor-mediated excitatory post-synaptic potentials (EPSP). Treatment with Ro 25-6981 showed that a greater proportion of the NMDA receptor-mediated EPSP was due to the GluN2B subunit in these animals, as compared to aged controls. These results suggest that increasing the production of the GluN2B subunit in aged animals enhances memory and synaptic transmission. Therapies that enhance GluN2B subunit expression within the aged brain may be useful for ameliorating age-related memory declines.

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