Temporal Dynamics and Neuronal Specificity of Grin3a Expression in the Mouse Forebrain

Cereb Cortex. 2021 Mar 5;31(4):1914-1926. doi: 10.1093/cercor/bhaa330.


GluN3A subunits endow N-Methyl-D-Aspartate receptors (NMDARs) with unique biophysical, trafficking, and signaling properties. GluN3A-NMDARs are typically expressed during postnatal development, when they are thought to gate the refinement of neural circuits by inhibiting synapse maturation, and stabilization. Recent work suggests that GluN3A also operates in adult brains to control a variety of behaviors, yet a full spatiotemporal characterization of GluN3A expression is lacking. Here, we conducted a systematic analysis of Grin3a (gene encoding mouse GluN3A) mRNA expression in the mouse brain by combining high-sensitivity colorimetric and fluorescence in situ hybridization with labeling for neuronal subtypes. We find that, while Grin3a mRNA expression peaks postnatally, significant levels are retained into adulthood in specific brain regions such as the amygdala, medial habenula, association cortices, and high-order thalamic nuclei. The time-course of emergence and down-regulation of Grin3a expression varies across brain region, cortical layer of residence, and sensory modality, in a pattern that correlates with previously reported hierarchical gradients of brain maturation and functional specialization. Grin3a is expressed in both excitatory and inhibitory neurons, with strong mRNA levels being a distinguishing feature of somatostatin interneurons. Our study provides a comprehensive map of Grin3a distribution across the murine lifespan and paves the way for dissecting the diverse functions of GluN3A in health and disease.

Keywords: circuit refinement; excitatory glycine receptors; high-order thalamus; neocortical maturation; somatostatin interneurons.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Intramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Age Factors
  • Animals
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Developmental / physiology*
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • Mice, Transgenic
  • Neurons / metabolism*
  • Prosencephalon / growth & development*
  • Prosencephalon / metabolism*
  • Receptors, N-Methyl-D-Aspartate / biosynthesis*
  • Receptors, N-Methyl-D-Aspartate / genetics


  • GluN3A protein, mouse
  • Receptors, N-Methyl-D-Aspartate