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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 1998 Jun 9;95(12):7097-102.

Activity differentially regulates the surface expression of synaptic AMPA and NMDA glutamate receptors.

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  • 1Department of Psychiatry, University of California, San Francisco, CA 94143, USA.


Distinct subtypes of glutamate receptors often are colocalized at individual excitatory synapses in the mammalian brain yet appear to subserve distinct functions. To address whether neuronal activity may differentially regulate the surface expression at synapses of two specific subtypes of ionotropic glutamate receptors we epitope-tagged an AMPA (alpha-amino-3-hydroxy-5-methylisoxazole-4-propionic acid) receptor subunit (GluR1) and an NMDA (N-methyl-D-aspartate) receptor subunit (NR1) on their extracellular termini and expressed these proteins in cultured hippocampal neurons using recombinant adenoviruses. Both receptor subtypes were appropriately targeted to the synaptic plasma membrane as defined by colocalization with the synaptic vesicle protein synaptophysin. Increasing activity in the network of cultured cells by prolonged blockade of inhibitory synapses with the gamma-aminobutyric acid type A receptor antagonist picrotoxin caused an activity-dependent and NMDA receptor-dependent decrease in surface expression of GluR1, but not NR1, at synapses. Consistent with this observation identical treatment of noninfected cultures decreased the contribution of endogenous AMPA receptors to synaptic currents relative to endogenous NMDA receptors. These results indicate that neuronal activity can differentially regulate the surface expression of AMPA and NMDA receptors at individual synapses.

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