GABAA, NMDA and AMPA receptors: a developmentally regulated 'ménage à trois'

Trends Neurosci. 1997 Nov;20(11):523-9. doi: 10.1016/s0166-2236(97)01147-8.


The main ionotropic receptors (GABAA, NMDA and AMPA) display a sequential participation in neuronal excitation in the neonatal hippocampus. GABA, the principal inhibitory transmitter in the adult CNS, acts as an excitatory transmitter in early postnatal stage. Glutamatergic synaptic transmission is first purely NMDA-receptor based and lacks functional AMPA receptors. Therefore, initially glutamatergic synapses are 'silent' at resting membrane potential, NMDA channels being blocked by Mg2+. However, when GABA and glutamatergic synapses are coactivated during the physiological patterns of activity, GABAA receptors can facilitate the activation of NMDA receptors, playing the role conferred to AMPA receptors later on in development. Determining the mechanisms underlying the development of this 'ménage à trois' will shed light not only on the wide range of trophic roles of glutamate and GABA in the developing brain, but also on the significance of the transition from neonatal to adult forms of plasticity.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Hippocampus / cytology
  • Hippocampus / growth & development*
  • Hippocampus / physiology
  • Humans
  • Neurons / physiology
  • Receptors, AMPA / physiology*
  • Receptors, GABA-A / physiology*
  • Receptors, N-Methyl-D-Aspartate / physiology*


  • Receptors, AMPA
  • Receptors, GABA-A
  • Receptors, N-Methyl-D-Aspartate