Our understanding of the molecular properties of kainate receptors and their involvement in synaptic physiology has progressed significantly over the last 30 years. A plethora of studies indicate that kainate receptors are important mediators of the pre- and postsynaptic actions of glutamate, although the mechanisms underlying such effects are still often a topic for discussion. Three clear fields related to their behavior have emerged: there are a number of interacting proteins that pace the properties of kainate receptors; their activity is unconventional since they can also signal through G proteins, behaving like metabotropic receptors; they seem to be linked to some devastating brain diseases. Despite the significant progress in their importance in brain function, kainate receptors remain somewhat puzzling. Here we examine discoveries linking these receptors to physiology and their probable implications in disease, in particular mood disorders, and propose some ideas to obtain a deeper understanding of these intriguing proteins.
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