Receptor compartmentalization and trafficking at glutamate synapses: a developmental proposal

Trends Neurosci. 2004 Jul;27(7):428-37. doi: 10.1016/j.tins.2004.05.010.


This article focuses on NMDA receptor subunit changes that occur in the forebrain and midbrain during development, namely the switch from predominance of NMDA receptors rich in NR2B subunits to that of NMDA receptors rich in NR2A subunits. We review the potential roles in brain plasticity of two membrane-associated guanylate kinases (MAGUKs), SAP102 and PSD95, which form a scaffold for the ion-passing glutamate receptors at the postsynaptic density, and we consider the known functional significance of these molecules in subunit switching. In addition, based on recent analyses of the synaptic location of glutamate receptors, activity-dependent changes in developing visual neurons, and extensive data on MAGUKs, we propose a model of glutamatergic synaptic differentiation. In this model, different NMDA receptor scaffolding and signaling complexes effect the trafficking and synaptic localization of NR2A-rich and NR2B-rich receptors, leading to tangential compartmentalization of these receptors and their movement between synaptic and extrasynaptic compartments.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Brain / embryology*
  • Brain / metabolism*
  • Glutamic Acid / metabolism*
  • Receptors, N-Methyl-D-Aspartate / metabolism*
  • Synapses / metabolism*


  • NR2B NMDA receptor
  • Receptors, N-Methyl-D-Aspartate
  • Glutamic Acid
  • N-methyl D-aspartate receptor subtype 2A