Subunit-specific NMDA receptor trafficking to synapses

Neuron. 2002 Jul 18;35(2):345-53. doi: 10.1016/s0896-6273(02)00776-6.


To elucidate mechanisms controlling the number and subunit composition of synaptic NMDA-Rs in hippocampal slice neurons, the NR1, NR2A, and NR2B subunits were optically and electrophysiologically tagged. The NR2 subunit directs delivery of receptors to synapses with different rules controlling NR2A and NR2B. Synaptic incorporation of NR2B-containing receptors is not limited by synaptic transmission nor enhanced by increased subunit expression. NR2A-containing receptors whose expression normally increases with age replace synaptic NR2B-containing receptors. Replacement is enhanced by increased NR2A expression and requires synaptic activity. Surprisingly, spontaneously released transmitter acting on synaptic NMDA-Rs is sufficient for replacement and reduces NMDA-R responses. Thus, as with AMPA-Rs, synaptic trafficking of NMDA-Rs is tightly regulated and has subunit-specific rules with functionally important consequences.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Animals, Newborn
  • Cell Compartmentation / physiology
  • Cells, Cultured
  • Dendrites / metabolism
  • Dendrites / ultrastructure
  • Dose-Response Relationship, Drug
  • Excitatory Amino Acid Antagonists / pharmacology
  • Green Fluorescent Proteins
  • Hippocampus / cytology
  • Hippocampus / metabolism*
  • Indicators and Reagents
  • Luminescent Proteins
  • Membrane Potentials / drug effects
  • Membrane Potentials / genetics
  • Mutation / physiology
  • Organ Culture Techniques
  • Protein Transport / physiology*
  • Pyramidal Cells / cytology
  • Pyramidal Cells / metabolism*
  • Receptors, N-Methyl-D-Aspartate / genetics
  • Receptors, N-Methyl-D-Aspartate / metabolism*
  • Receptors, N-Methyl-D-Aspartate / ultrastructure
  • Recombinant Fusion Proteins / genetics
  • Sodium Channel Blockers / pharmacology
  • Synapses / metabolism*
  • Synapses / ultrastructure
  • Synaptic Transmission / physiology*


  • Excitatory Amino Acid Antagonists
  • Indicators and Reagents
  • Luminescent Proteins
  • NR1 NMDA receptor
  • NR2A NMDA receptor
  • NR2B NMDA receptor
  • Receptors, N-Methyl-D-Aspartate
  • Recombinant Fusion Proteins
  • Sodium Channel Blockers
  • Green Fluorescent Proteins