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Curr Opin Physiol. 2018 Apr;2:1-12. doi: 10.1016/j.cophys.2017.12.004. Epub 2017 Dec 19.

Triheteromeric NMDA receptors: from structure to synaptic physiology.

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Institut de Biologie de l'École Normale Supérieure (IBENS), Ecole Normale Supérieure, PSL Research University, CNRS, INSERM, 46 rue d'Ulm, F-75005 Paris, France.


N-methyl-D-aspartate receptors (NMDARs) are glutamate-gated ion channels that play crucial roles in brain development and synaptic plasticity. They are also therapeutic targets of interest since their dysfunction is associated with multiple neurological and psychiatric disorders. In vivo, NMDARs exist as multiple subtypes that differ in their subunit composition, anatomical distribution, functional properties, as well as signaling capacities. While much is known about diheteromeric NMDARs composed of two GluN1 subunits and two identical GluN2 (or GluN3) subunits, the majority of native NMDARs are triheteromers containing two GluN1 and two different GluN2 (or a combination of GluN2 and GluN3). Knowledge about triheteromeric NMDARs has recently boomed, with the first decoding of their atomic structure and the development of a new methodology allowing selective expression of recombinant triheteromers at the cell-surface without confounding co-expression of diheteromers. Here we review these progresses and highlight the unique attributes of triheteromers. Particular emphasis is put on GluN1/GluN2A/GluN2B triheteromers, presumably the most abundant NMDARs in the adult forebrain and critical actors of synaptic plasticity. Better understanding triheteromeric NMDAR structure and function is of major interest for brain physiology and drug discovery.


LTP; NMDA; glutamate receptor; synaptic transmission; triheteromeric receptor

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