Calpains have been previously shown to regulate AMPA receptor properties by producing partial truncation of the C-terminal domains of several receptor subunits. We now report that NMDA receptor subunits, in particular NR2 subunits, are also subjected to calpain-mediated truncation. Treatment of synaptic membranes with calpain I resulted in truncation of both NR1 and NR2 subunits, with the appearance of NR2 species with lower mol.wt. than native subunits, but still recognized by antibodies directed at the C-terminal domain. This treatment did not modify the binding of several ligands of the NMDA receptors, such as glutamate, glycine or TCP. Incubation of thin frozen-thawed brain sections with calcium resulted in calpain-mediated selective degradation of NR2 subunits, as truncation into smaller fragments was totally blocked by calpain inhibitors. Under the same conditions, TCP binding to sections was decreased by about 50%, an effect also blocked by calpain inhibitors. Treatment of hippocampal slices in culture with the excitotoxin, kainic acid, also produced calpain-mediated truncation of the C-terminal domain of NR2 but not NR1 subunits of the NMDA receptors. The results indicate that calpain activation produces several modifications of NMDA receptors, including the truncation of the C-terminal domain of NR2 subunits, and changes in channel binding properties. They suggest that calpain-mediated regulation of NMDA receptors might represent a feed-back regulation of the receptors which could be used to limit receptor activation.
Copyright 1998 Elsevier Science B.V.