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J Neurosci. 1999 Feb 15;19(4):1165-78.

Interactions of calmodulin and alpha-actinin with the NR1 subunit modulate Ca2+-dependent inactivation of NMDA receptors.

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Vollum Institute, Oregon Health Sciences University, Portland, Oregon 97201, USA.


Glutamate receptors are associated with various regulatory and cytoskeletal proteins. However, an understanding of the functional significance of these interactions is still rudimentary. Studies in hippocampal neurons suggest that such interactions may be involved in calcium-induced reduction in the open probability of NMDA receptors (inactivation). Thus we examined the role of the intracellular domains of the NR1 subunit and two of its binding partners, calmodulin and alpha-actinin, on this process using NR1/NR2A heteromers expressed in human embryonic kidney (HEK) 293 cells. The presence of the first 30 residues of the intracellular C terminus of NR1 (C0 domain) was required for inactivation. Mutations in the last five residues of C0 reduced inactivation and produced parallel shifts in binding of alpha-actinin and Ca2+/calmodulin to the respective C0-derived peptides. Although calmodulin reduced channel activity in excised patches, calmodulin inhibitors did not block inactivation in whole-cell recording, suggesting that inactivation in the intact cell is more complex than binding of calmodulin to C0. Overexpression of putative Ca2+-insensitive, but not Ca2+-sensitive, forms of alpha-actinin reduced inactivation, an effect that was overcome by inclusion of calmodulin in the whole-cell pipette. The C0 domain also directly affects channel gating because NR1 subunits with truncated C0 domains that lacked calmodulin or alpha-actinin binding sites had a low open probability. We propose that inactivation can occur after C0 dissociates from alpha-actinin by two distinct but converging calcium-dependent processes: competitive displacement of alpha-actinin by calmodulin and reduction in the affinity of alpha-actinin for C0 after binding of calcium to alpha-actinin.

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