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J Neuroinflammation. 2018 Feb 8;15(1):36. doi: 10.1186/s12974-018-1082-z.

Hyperammonemia alters membrane expression of GluA1 and GluA2 subunits of AMPA receptors in hippocampus by enhancing activation of the IL-1 receptor: underlying mechanisms.

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Laboratory of Neurobiology, Centro de Investigacion Príncipe Felipe, Eduardo Primo Yufera 3, 46012, Valencia, Spain.
Laboratory of Neurobiology, Centro de Investigacion Príncipe Felipe, Eduardo Primo Yufera 3, 46012, Valencia, Spain.



Hyperammonemic rats reproduce the cognitive alterations of patients with hepatic encephalopathy, including altered spatial memory, attributed to altered membrane expression of AMPA receptor subunits in hippocampus. Neuroinflammation mediates these cognitive alterations. We hypothesized that hyperammonemia-induced increase in IL-1β in hippocampus would be responsible for the altered GluA1 and GluA2 membrane expression. The aims of this work were to (1) assess if increased IL-1β levels and activation of its receptor are responsible for the changes in GluA1 and/or GluA2 membrane expression in hyperammonemia and (2) identify the mechanisms by which activation of IL-1 receptor leads to altered membrane expression of GluA1 and GluA2.


We analyzed in hippocampal slices from control and hyperammonemic rat membrane expression of AMPA receptors using the BS3 cross-linker and phosphorylation of the GluA1 and GluA2 subunits using phosphor-specific antibodies. The IL-1 receptor was blocked with IL-Ra, and the signal transduction pathways involved in modulation of membrane expression of GluA1 and GluA2 were analyzed using inhibitors of key steps.


Hyperammonemia reduces GluA1 and increases GluA2 membrane expression and reduces phosphorylation of GluA1 at Ser831 and of GluA2 at Ser880. Hyperammonemia increases IL-1β, enhancing activation of IL-1 receptor. This leads to activation of Src. The changes in membrane expression of GluA1 and GluA2 are reversed by blocking the IL-1 receptor with IL-1Ra or by inhibiting Src with PP2. After Src activation, the pathways for GluA2 and GluA1 diverge. Src increases phosphorylation of GluN2B at Tyr14721 and membrane expression of GluN2B in hyperammonemic rats, leading to activation of MAP kinase p38, which binds to and reduces phosphorylation at Thr560 and activity of PKCζ, resulting in reduced phosphorylation at Ser880 and enhanced membrane expression of GluA2. Increased Src activity in hyperammonemic rats also activates PKCδ which enhances phosphorylation of GluN2B at Ser1303, reducing membrane expression of CaMKII and phosphorylation at Ser831 and membrane expression of GluA1.


This work identifies two pathways by which neuroinflammation alters glutamatergic neurotransmission in hippocampus. The steps of the pathways identified could be targets to normalize neurotransmission in hyperammonemia and other pathologies associated with increased IL-1β by acting, for example, on p38 or PKCδ. IL-1β alters membrane expression of GluA1 and GluA2 AMPA receptor subunits by two difrerent mechanisms in the hippocampus of hyperammonemic rats.


AMPA receptors; GluA1; GluA2; Hepatic encephalopathy; Hyperammonemia; IL-1 receptor; IL-1β; Membrane expression; Neuroinflammation; Neurotransmission

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