AMPA receptor translocation and phosphorylation are induced by transcranial direct current stimulation in rats

Neurobiol Learn Mem. 2018 Apr;150:36-41. doi: 10.1016/j.nlm.2017.11.002. Epub 2017 Nov 11.


Over the last decade, the interest in transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS) has continued to increase, along with consideration of how it affects neuroplasticity mechanisms in the brain. Both human and animal studies have demonstrated numerous benefits and, although its application has increased, the neurophysiological mechanisms underlying tDCS' beneficial effects remain largely unknown. Recent studies have shown that long-term potentiation (LTP) increases following tDCS. In this work, we utilized a rodent model of tDCS to directly assess changes in the α-amino-3-hydroxy-5-methyl-4-isoxazolepropionic acid (AMPA) receptor, a critical protein for enhancing synaptic transmission. Animals were subjected to 250 μA of direct current (DC) stimulation for 30 min with immediate tissue collection. Translocation and phosphorylation of AMPA receptors were examined using protein immunoblot analysis following a subcellular fractionation method. Our findings show that a single application of in vivo tDCS can affect both the translocation and phosphorylation of AMPA receptors in the hippocampus while increasing AMPA receptor phosphorylation in the hypothalamus. In the hippocampus, tDCS increased AMPA translocation to the synapse and increased the phosphorylation of the S831 site on GluA1. In the hypothalamus, no statistically significant changes were observed in AMPA translocation while an increase in the phosphorylation of the S831 site was observed. No changes in the phosphorylation of GluA1 at the S845 site were detected in either brain region. In sum, our findings identify specific AMPA receptor changes induced by tDCS, thereby providing further details on the mechanisms by which tDCS could affect the establishment of LTP and modulate neuroplasticity.

Keywords: AMPA; Hippocampus; Hypothalamus; Phosphorylation; Translocation; tDCS.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Hippocampus / metabolism*
  • Male
  • Neuronal Plasticity / physiology*
  • Phosphorylation
  • Protein Transport / physiology
  • Rats
  • Rats, Sprague-Dawley
  • Receptors, AMPA / metabolism*
  • Synapses / metabolism
  • Synaptic Transmission / physiology
  • Transcranial Direct Current Stimulation*


  • Receptors, AMPA