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Neuropharmacology. 1998 Oct-Nov;37(10-11):1369-80.

NMDA receptor diversity in the cerebellum: identification of subunits contributing to functional receptors.

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Department of Pharmacology, University College London, UK.


Recent studies of N-methyl-D-aspartate (NMDA) receptors have led to the suggestion that there are two distinct classes of native NMDA receptors, identifiable from their single-channel conductance properties. 'High-conductance' openings arise from NR2A- or NR2B-containing receptors, and 'low-conductance' openings arise from NR2C- or NR2D-containing receptors. In addition, the low-conductance channels show reduced sensitivity to block by Mg2+. The readily identified cell types and simple architecture of the cerebellum make it an ideal model system in which to determine the contribution of specific subunits to functional NMDA receptors. Furthermore, mRNA for all of these four NR2 subunits are represented in this brain region. We have examined NMDA channels in Purkinje cells, deep cerebellar nuclei (DCN) neurons and Golgi cells. First we find that NR2D-containing NMDA receptors give rise to low-conductance openings in cell-attached recordings from Purkinje cells. The characteristic conductance of these events cannot, therefore, be ascribed to patch excision. Second, patches from some DCN neurons exhibit mixed populations of high- and low-conductance openings. Third, Golgi cells also exhibit a mixed population of high- and low-conductance NMDA receptor openings. The features of these low-conductance openings are consistent with the presence of NR2D-containing NMDA receptors, as suggested by in situ hybridization data. On the other hand the existence of high-conductance channels, with properties typical of NR2B-containing receptors, was not expected. Our results provide new evidence about the subunit composition of NMDA receptors in identified cerebellar cells, and suggest that examination of single-channel properties is a potentially powerful approach for determining the possible subunit composition of native NMDA receptors.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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