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Eur J Neurosci. 1998 May;10(5):1704-15.

Developmental changes in localization of NMDA receptor subunits in primary cultures of cortical neurons.

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Department of Physiology and Biophysics, Georgetown University School of Medicine, Washington, DC 20007, USA.


Immunoblot analysis, using antibodies against distinct N-methyl-D-aspartic acid (NMDA) receptor subunits, illustrated that the NR2A and NR2B subunit proteins have developmental profiles in cultured cortical neurons similar to those seen in vivo. NR1 and NR2B subunits display high levels of expression within the first week. In contrast, the NR2A subunit is barely detectable at 7 days in vitro (DIV) and then gradually increased to mature levels at DIV21. Immunocytochemical analysis indicated that NMDA receptor subunits cluster in the dendrites and soma of cortical neurons. Clusters of NR1 and NR2B subunits were observed as early as DIV3, while NR2A clusters were rarely observed before DIV10. At DIV18, NR2B clusters partially co-localize with those of NR2A subunits, but NR2B clusters always co-localize with those of NR1 subunits. Synapse formation, as indicated by the presence of presynaptic synaptophysin staining, was observed as early as 48-72 h after plating. However, in several neurons at ages less than DIV5 where synapses were scarce, NR2B and NR1 clusters were abundant. Furthermore, while NR2B subunit clusters were seen both at synaptic and extrasynaptic sites, NR2A clusters occurred almost exclusively in front of synaptophysin-labelled boutons. This result was supported by electrophysiological recording of NMDA-mediated synaptic activity [NMDA-excitatory postsynaptic currents (EPSCs)] in developing neurons. At DIV6, but not at DIV12, CP101, 606, a NR1/NR2B receptor antagonist, antagonized spontaneously occurring NMDA-EPSCs. Our data indicate that excitatory synapse formation occurs when NMDA receptors comprise NR1 and NR2B subunits, and that NR2A subunits cluster preferentially at synaptic sites.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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