Identification of a native low-conductance NMDA channel with reduced sensitivity to Mg2+ in rat central neurones

J Physiol. 1996 Jul 15;494 ( Pt 2)(Pt 2):479-92. doi: 10.1113/jphysiol.1996.sp021507.


1. We have identified a new type of NMDA channel in rat central neurones that express mRNA for the NR2D subunit. We have examined single NMDA channels in cerebellar Purkinje cells (which possess NR1 and 2D), deep cerebellar nuclei (NR1, 2A, 2B and 2D) and spinal cord dorsal horn neurones (NR1, 2B and 2D). 2. In Purkinje cells, NMDA opened channels with a main conductance of 37.9 +/- 1.1 pS and a subconductance of 17.8 +/- 0.7 pS, with frequent transitions between the two levels. 3. NMDA activated low-conductance ('38/18 pS') events (along with high-conductance--'50/40 pS'--openings) in some patches from deep cerebellar nuclei and dorsal horn neurones. Our evidence suggests that 38/18 pS and 50/40 pS events arose from distinct types of NMDA receptors. 4. The transitions for 38/18 pS events were asymmetrical: steps from 38 to 18 pS were more frequent (72.2%) than steps from 18 to 38 pS. This feature appeared common to the 38/18 pS events in all three cell types, suggesting similarity in the low-conductance channels. 5. The 38/18 pS channels in Purkinje cells exhibited characteristic NMDA receptor properties, including requirement for glycine, antagonism by D-2-amino-5-phosphonopentanoic acid (D-AP5) and 7-chlorokynurenic acid, and voltage-dependent block by extracellular Mg2+. 6. The mean open time for the 38 pS state (0.74 +/- 0.07 ms) was significantly briefer than that for the 18 pS state (1.27 +/- 0.18 ms). 7. Mg2+ block of low-conductance NMDA channels in Purkinje cells was less marked than block of 50/40 pS channels in cerebellar granule cells. 8. The time course of appearance of 38/18 pS NMDA channels matched the expression of mRNA for the NR2D subunit. Thus 38/18 pS events were present in > 70% of Purkinje cell patches in 0- to 8-day-old animals, and absent by postnatal day 12. 9. We propose that the 38/18 pS NMDA channels identified here (associated with the NR2D subunit), and the other low-conductance NMDA channel associated with the NR2C subunit, may together constitute a functionally distinct subclass of native NMDA receptors.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • 2-Amino-5-phosphonovalerate / pharmacology
  • Animals
  • Cerebellar Nuclei / physiology*
  • Electric Conductivity
  • Excitatory Amino Acid Antagonists / pharmacology
  • Hippocampus / physiology*
  • In Vitro Techniques
  • Ion Channel Gating
  • Kynurenic Acid / analogs & derivatives
  • Kynurenic Acid / pharmacology
  • Magnesium / pharmacology*
  • Membrane Potentials / drug effects
  • Neurons / drug effects
  • Neurons / physiology*
  • Organ Specificity
  • Purkinje Cells / drug effects
  • Purkinje Cells / physiology
  • RNA, Messenger / biosynthesis
  • Rats
  • Rats, Sprague-Dawley
  • Receptors, N-Methyl-D-Aspartate / biosynthesis
  • Receptors, N-Methyl-D-Aspartate / drug effects
  • Receptors, N-Methyl-D-Aspartate / physiology*
  • Spinal Cord / physiology*
  • Transcription, Genetic


  • Excitatory Amino Acid Antagonists
  • RNA, Messenger
  • Receptors, N-Methyl-D-Aspartate
  • 2-Amino-5-phosphonovalerate
  • Kynurenic Acid
  • Magnesium
  • 7-chlorokynurenic acid