Ionotropic glutamate receptors. Their possible role in the expression of hippocampal synaptic plasticity

Mol Neurobiol. 1996 Feb;12(1):1-11. doi: 10.1007/BF02740744.


In the brain, most fast excitatory synaptic transmission is mediated through L-glutamate acting on postsynaptic ionotropic glutamate receptors. These receptors are of two kinds--the alpha-amino-3-hydroxy-5-methyl-4-isoxazolepropionate (AMPA)/kainate (non-NMDA) and the N-methyl-D-aspartate (NMDA) receptors, which are thought to be colocalized onto the same postsynaptic elements. This excitatory transmission can be modulated both upward and downward, long-term potentiation (LTP) and long-term depression (LTD), respectively. Whether the expression of LTP/LTD is pre-or postsynaptically located (or both) remains an enigma. This article will focus on what postsynaptic modifications of the ionotropic glutamate receptors may possibly underly long-term potentiation/depression. It will discuss the character of LTP/ LTD with respect to the temporal characteristics and to the type of changes that appears in the non-NMDA and NMDA receptor-mediated synaptic currents, and what constraints these findings put on the possible expression mechanism(s) for LTP/LTD. It will be submitted that if a modification of the glutamate receptors does underly LTP/LTD, an increase/ decrease in the number of functional receptors is the most plausible alternative. This change in receptor number will have to include a coordinated change of both the non-NMDA and the NMDA receptors.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Hippocampus / physiology*
  • Long-Term Potentiation*
  • Mammals
  • Neuronal Plasticity*
  • Receptors, AMPA / physiology
  • Receptors, Glutamate / physiology*
  • Receptors, Kainic Acid / physiology
  • Receptors, N-Methyl-D-Aspartate / physiology
  • Synapses / physiology*
  • Synaptic Transmission


  • Receptors, AMPA
  • Receptors, Glutamate
  • Receptors, Kainic Acid
  • Receptors, N-Methyl-D-Aspartate