Phosphorylation of AMPA receptors: mechanisms and synaptic plasticity

Mol Neurobiol. 2005 Dec;32(3):237-49. doi: 10.1385/MN:32:3:237.


The ionotropic alpha-amino-3-hydroxy-5-methylisoxazole-4-propionic acid (AMPA) receptor is densely distributed in the mammalian brain and is primarily involved in mediating fast excitatory synaptic transmission. Recent studies in both heterologous expression systems and cultured neurons have shown that the AMPA receptor can be phosphorylated on their subunits (GluR1, GluR2, and GluR4). All phosphorylation sites reside at serine, threonine, or tyrosine on the intracellular C-terminal domain. Several key protein kinases, such as protein kinase A, protein kinase C, Ca2+/calmodulin-dependent protein kinase II, and tyrosine kinases (Trks; receptor or nonreceptor family Trks) are involved in the site-specific regulation of the AMPA receptor phosphorylation. Other glutamate receptors (N-methyl-d-aspartate receptors and metabotropic glutamate receptors) also regulate AMPA receptors through a protein phosphorylation mechanism. Emerging evidence shows that as a rapid and short-term mechanism, the dynamic protein phosphorylation directly modulates the electrophysiological, morphological (externalization and internalization trafficking and clustering), and biochemical (synthesis and subunit composition) properties of the AMPA receptor, as well as protein-protein interactions between the AMPA receptor subunits and various intracellular interacting proteins. These modulations underlie the major molecular mechanisms that ultimately affect many forms of synaptic plasticity.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Amino Acid Sequence
  • Animals
  • Molecular Sequence Data
  • Neuronal Plasticity*
  • Phosphorylation
  • Receptors, AMPA / metabolism*
  • Receptors, Glutamate / metabolism
  • Receptors, Kainic Acid / metabolism
  • Synaptic Transmission*


  • Receptors, AMPA
  • Receptors, Glutamate
  • Receptors, Kainic Acid