Photoinactivation of native AMPA receptors reveals their real-time trafficking

Neuron. 2005 Dec 22;48(6):977-85. doi: 10.1016/j.neuron.2005.11.030.


AMPA receptors mediate the majority of the fast excitatory transmission in the central nervous system. Much evidence suggests that the fast trafficking of AMPA receptors into and out of the postsynaptic membrane underlies changes in synaptic strength thought to be necessary for higher cognitive functions such as learning and memory. Despite the abundance of research conducted in this area, a direct, real-time functional assay that measures the trafficking of native AMPA receptors has been lacking. Toward this aim, we use a photoreactive, irreversible antagonist of AMPA receptors, ANQX, to rapidly silence surface AMPA receptors and investigate directly the trafficking of native AMPA receptors in real time. We find that the most dynamic movement of AMPA receptors occurs by lateral movement across the surface of neurons. Fast cycling of surface AMPA receptors with receptors from internal stores does occur but exclusively at extrasynaptic somatic sites. The cycling of synaptic AMPA receptors only occurs on a much longer timescale with complete exchange requiring at least 16 hr. This cycling is not dependent on protein synthesis or action potential driven network activity. These data suggest a revised model of AMPA receptor trafficking wherein a large internal store of AMPA receptors exchanges rapidly with extrasynaptic somatic AMPA receptors, and these newly inserted AMPA receptors then travel laterally along dendrites to reside stably at synapses.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Animals, Newborn
  • Brain / cytology
  • Brain / metabolism*
  • Cell Membrane / drug effects
  • Cell Membrane / metabolism*
  • Cells, Cultured
  • Dendrites / metabolism
  • Dendrites / ultrastructure
  • Endocytosis / drug effects
  • Endocytosis / physiology
  • Excitatory Amino Acid Antagonists / pharmacology
  • Models, Neurological
  • Neurochemistry / methods
  • Neurons / cytology
  • Neurons / drug effects
  • Neurons / metabolism*
  • Nitro Compounds / pharmacology
  • Photochemistry / methods
  • Protein Transport / drug effects
  • Protein Transport / physiology
  • Quinolines / pharmacology
  • Rats
  • Rats, Sprague-Dawley
  • Receptors, AMPA / antagonists & inhibitors
  • Receptors, AMPA / metabolism*
  • Synaptic Transmission / drug effects
  • Synaptic Transmission / physiology*
  • Time Factors


  • 6-azido-7-nitro-1,4-dihydroquinoxaline-2,3-dione
  • Excitatory Amino Acid Antagonists
  • Nitro Compounds
  • Quinolines
  • Receptors, AMPA