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J Neurosci. 2014 Jan 15;34(3):869-79. doi: 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.4538-13.2014.

Phosphorylation of Ser1166 on GluN2B by PKA is critical to synaptic NMDA receptor function and Ca2+ signaling in spines.

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Dominick P. Purpura Department of Neuroscience, Albert Einstein College of Medicine, Bronx, New York 10461, Department of Pharmacology, University of California, Davis, California 95616, Department of Neurobiology, HHMI, Harvard Medical School, Boston, Massachusetts 02115, and Department of Biochemistry, University of Buffalo, State University of New York, Buffalo, New York 14214.


The NMDA-type glutamate receptor (NMDAR) is essential for synaptogenesis, synaptic plasticity, and higher cognitive function. Emerging evidence indicates that NMDAR Ca(2+) permeability is under the control of cAMP/protein kinase A (PKA) signaling. Whereas the functional impact of PKA on NMDAR-dependent Ca(2+) signaling is well established, the molecular target remains unknown. Here we identify serine residue 1166 (Ser1166) in the carboxy-terminal tail of the NMDAR subunit GluN2B to be a direct molecular and functional target of PKA phosphorylation critical to NMDAR-dependent Ca(2+) permeation and Ca(2+) signaling in spines. Activation of β-adrenergic and D1/D5-dopamine receptors induces Ser1166 phosphorylation. Loss of this single phosphorylation site abolishes PKA-dependent potentiation of NMDAR Ca(2+) permeation, synaptic currents, and Ca(2+) rises in dendritic spines. We further show that adverse experience in the form of forced swim, but not exposure to fox urine, elicits striking phosphorylation of Ser1166 in vivo, indicating differential impact of different forms of stress. Our data identify a novel molecular and functional target of PKA essential to NMDAR-mediated Ca(2+) signaling at synapses and regulated by the emotional response to stress.

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