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Nature. 1994 Mar 10;368(6467):144-7.

Changing subunit composition of heteromeric NMDA receptors during development of rat cortex.

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Howard Hughes Medical Institute, University of California, San Francisco 94143-0724.


Activation of the N-methyl-D-aspartate (NMDA) receptor is important for certain forms of activity-dependent synaptic plasticity, such as long-term potentiation (reviewed in ref. 1), and the patterning of connections during development of the visual system (reviewed in refs 2, 3). Several subunits of the NMDA receptor have been cloned: these are NMDAR1 (NR1), and NMDAR2A, 2B, 2C and 2D (NR2A-D). Based on heterologous co-expression studies, it is inferred that NR1 encodes an essential subunit of NMDA receptors and that functional diversity of NMDA receptors in vivo is effected by differential incorporation of subunits NR2A-NR2D. Little is known, however, about the actual subunit composition or heterogeneity of NMDA receptors in the brain. By co-immunoprecipitation with subunit-specific antibodies, we present here direct evidence that NMDA receptors exist in rat neocortex as heteromeric complexes of considerable heterogeneity, some containing both NR2A and NR2B subunits. A progressive alteration in subunit composition seen postnatally could contribute to NMDA-receptor variation and changing synaptic plasticity during cortical development.

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