Determining the activation time course of synaptic AMPA receptors from openings of colocalized NMDA receptors

Biophys J. 1999 Sep;77(3):1418-27. doi: 10.1016/S0006-3495(99)76990-0.


Excitatory postsynaptic currents (EPSCs) in most mammalian central neurons have a fast alpha-amino-3-hydroxy-5-methyl-4-isoazole-proprionic acid (AMPA) receptor-mediated component, lasting a few milliseconds, and a slow N-methyl-D-aspartic acid (NMDA)-receptor-mediated component, lasting hundreds of milliseconds. The time course of the AMPA phase is crucial in the integrative function of neurons, but measuring it accurately is often confounded by cable filtering between the recording electrode and the synapse. We describe a method for recovering the AMPA phase of individual EPSCs by determining the impulse response of the cable filter from single NMDA channel transitions in the slow tails of the same EPSC, then deconvolving the measured AMPA current. Using simulations, we show that filtering of an AMPA conductance transient in a voltage-clamped dendrite behaves in an almost perfectly linear fashion. Expressions are derived for the time course of single channel transitions and the AMPA phase filtered through a voltage-clamped cable or a single exponential filter, using a kinetic model for AMPA receptor activation. Fitting these expressions to experimental records directly estimates the underlying kinetics of the AMPA phase. Example measurements of spontaneous EPSCs in cultured nonpyramidal rat cortical neurons yielded rising time constants of 0.2-0.8 ms, and decay time constants of 1.3-2 ms at 23-25 degrees C.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cells, Cultured
  • Cerebral Cortex / cytology
  • Cerebral Cortex / physiology
  • Computer Simulation
  • Electric Conductivity
  • Evoked Potentials
  • Mathematics
  • Models, Neurological*
  • Neurons / cytology
  • Neurons / physiology*
  • Patch-Clamp Techniques
  • Rats
  • Receptors, AMPA / physiology*
  • Receptors, N-Methyl-D-Aspartate / physiology*
  • Synapses / physiology*
  • Synaptic Transmission


  • Receptors, AMPA
  • Receptors, N-Methyl-D-Aspartate