Genetic and Functional Analysis of GRIN2A in Tumor Samples

Methods Mol Biol. 2017:1677:93-116. doi: 10.1007/978-1-4939-7321-7_3.


Ionotropic glutamate receptors (iGluRs) are large integral membrane multi-protein complexes that create ion channels in plasma membranes. Upon binding of receptor specific ligands (e.g., glutamate), increased efflux or influx of mono- or divalent cations (e.g., Ca2+) promotes synaptic transmission, cellular migration, and survival. Three classes of iGluRs were originally defined after their respective agonists: AMPA, kainate, and NMDA receptors (NMDARs). Recently, we examined iGluR families at the genetic level using Next-Generation Sequencing (NGS) (whole-exome sequencing (WES)) and discovered a high prevalence of somatic mutations within the gene for one of the NMDAR subunits, GRIN2A, specifically in malignant melanoma. Following confirmation of the somatic mutations, we focused on functional characterization of a subset of the GRIN2A mutants that demonstrated a loss of NMDAR functionality. We used gene expression and protein biochemistry to examine complex formation between GluN1 subunit (encoded by GRIN1) and GluN2A subunit (encoded by GRIN2A), anchorage-independent growth in soft agar and cellular migration. Furthermore, we used shRNA depletion of endogenous GRIN2A in melanoma cells expressing either wild-type GRIN2A or mutant GRIN2A and measured cellular proliferation compared to negative controls. Our data show that somatic mutation of certain residues in GluN2A results in increased survival and is the first such report to demonstrate the functional importance of GRIN2A mutations in melanoma and the significance ionotropic glutamate receptor signaling plays in malignant melanoma.

Keywords: Ion channel; Melanoma; NMDA receptor; Sequencing; Somatic mutation.

MeSH terms

  • Cell Movement / genetics
  • Cell Movement / physiology
  • High-Throughput Nucleotide Sequencing
  • Humans
  • Kainic Acid / pharmacology
  • Melanoma / genetics
  • Melanoma / metabolism
  • Mutation / genetics
  • Mutation / physiology
  • Nerve Tissue Proteins / genetics
  • Nerve Tissue Proteins / metabolism
  • Receptors, N-Methyl-D-Aspartate / genetics*
  • Receptors, N-Methyl-D-Aspartate / metabolism
  • Signal Transduction / drug effects
  • Signal Transduction / genetics
  • Signal Transduction / physiology
  • alpha-Amino-3-hydroxy-5-methyl-4-isoxazolepropionic Acid / pharmacology


  • GRIN1 protein, human
  • Nerve Tissue Proteins
  • Receptors, N-Methyl-D-Aspartate
  • alpha-Amino-3-hydroxy-5-methyl-4-isoxazolepropionic Acid
  • Kainic Acid
  • N-methyl D-aspartate receptor subtype 2A