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BMC Neurosci. 2018 Nov 12;19(1):73. doi: 10.1186/s12868-018-0475-3.

Downregulation of calcium-dependent NMDA receptor desensitization by sodium-calcium exchangers: a role of membrane cholesterol.

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Sechenov Institute of Evolutionary Physiology and Biochemistry, Russian Academy of Sciences, pr. Torez 44, Saint-Petersburg, Russia.
Sechenov Institute of Evolutionary Physiology and Biochemistry, Russian Academy of Sciences, pr. Torez 44, Saint-Petersburg, Russia.



The plasma membrane Na+/Ca2+-exchanger (NCX) has recently been shown to regulate Ca2+-dependent N-methyl-D-aspartate receptor (NMDAR) desensitization, suggesting a tight interaction of NCXs and NMDARs in lipid nanoclasters or "rafts". To evaluate possible role of this interaction we studied effects of Li+ on NMDA-elicited whole-cell currents and Ca2+ responses of rat cortical neurons in vitro before and after cholesterol extraction by methyl-β-cyclodextrin (MβCD).


Substitution Li+ for Na+ in the external solution caused a concentration-dependent decrease of steady-state NMDAR currents from 440 ± 71 pA to 111 ± 29 pA in 140 mM Na+ and 140 mM Li+, respectively. The Li+ inhibition of NMDAR currents disappeared in the absence of Ca2+ in the external solution (Ca2+-free), suggesting that Li+ enhanced Ca2+-dependent NMDAR desensitization. Whereas the cholesterol extraction with MβCD induced a decrease of NMDAR currents to 136 ± 32 pA in 140 mM Na+ and 46 ± 15 pA in 140 mM Li+, the IC50 values for the Li+ inhibition were similar (about 44 mM Li+) before and after this procedure. In the Ca2+-free Na+ solution the steady-state NMDAR currents after the cholesterol extraction were 47 ± 6% of control values. Apparently this amplitude decrease was not Ca2+-dependent. In the Na+ solution containing 1 mM Ca2+ the Ca2+-dependent NMDAR desensitization was greater when cholesterol was extracted. Obviously, this procedure promoted its development. In agreement, Li+ and KB-R7943, an inhibitor of NCX, both considerably reduced NMDA-activated Ca2+ responses. The cholesterol extraction itself caused a decrease of NMDA-activated Ca2+ responses and, in addition, abolished the effects of Li+ and KB-R7943. The cholesterol loading into the plasma membrane caused a recovery of the KB-R7943 effects.


Taken together our data suggest that NCXs downregulate the Ca2+-dependent NMDAR desensitization. Most likely, this is determined by a tight functional interaction of NCX and NMDAR molecules because of their co-localization in membrane lipid rafts. The destruction of these rafts is accompanied by an enhancement of NMDAR desensitization and a loss of NCX-selective agent effects on NMDARs.


Desensitization; Glutamate; Lipid rafts; NMDA receptors; Sodium-calcium exchanger

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