Calpain and the glutamatergic synapse

Front Biosci (Schol Ed). 2009 Jun 1;1:466-76. doi: 10.2741/s38.


Calpain is a ubiquitous protease found in different tissue types and in many organisms including mammals. It generally does not destroy its large variety of substrates, but more commonly disrupts their function. In neurons, many of its substrates become dysregulated as a result of cleavage of their regulatory domain by this protease, leading to altered signaling between cells. In glutamatergic synaptic transmission, direct targets of calpain include all of the major glutamate receptors: NMDA receptors, AMPA receptors and mGluR. By cleaving these receptors and associated intracellular proteins, calpain may regulate the physiology at glutamatergic synapses. As a result, calpain-mediated cleavage in neurons might not only be involved in pathological events like excitotoxicity, but may also have neuroprotective effects and roles in physiological synaptic transmission.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Calpain / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Receptors, Glutamate / physiology*
  • Synapses / physiology


  • Receptors, Glutamate
  • Calpain