Most excitatory synaptic transmission in the mammalian central nervous system is mediated by the neurotransmitter glutamate. Glutamatergic signaling is critical to fast cell-to-cell transmission, normal brain development, and learning and memory. Dysfunctional glutamatergic signaling is implicated in numerous acute and chronic neurological diseases as well as many psychiatric disorders. NMDA receptors (NMDARs) are glutamate activated ion channels (iGluRs) that are integral to this fast signaling. A key functional feature of NMDARs is gating - the process of ligand binding/unbinding resulting in pore opening/closing. Gating involves ligand induced conformational changes in the ligand binding domain that are transferred to the pore forming transmembrane domain, increasing the likelihood of channel opening. This gating process is a promising target for pharmacological intervention. I will address the novel hypothesis that electrostatic interactions in the linkers connecting the ligand binding domain to the transmembrane domain (specifically, M3-S2 and S2-M4) strongly influence the energetics of gating in NMDARs. In GluN2A subunits, the M3-S2 and S2-M4 linkers have numerous charged residues and I have preliminary data suggesting that these linkers are proximal and that gating kinetics are significantly altered if charges are mutated.
Aim 1 will focus on the detailed mechanisms of how electrostatic interactions between charged residues in the M3-S2 and S2- M4 linkers affect gating. I will use single channel analysis, immunoblots, and substituted cysteines to determine how these charged residues interact to modulate gating energetics.
In Aim 2, I will explore how electrostatic interactions in the linkers may contribute to subunit- specific gating mechanisms. The GluN2 and GluN3 subunits confer distinct gating properties onto NMDARs and define how NMDARs function at native synapses. I hypothesize that differences in intrasubunit linker electrostatic interactions are part of the underlying mechanism of subunit-specific gating. I will take advantage of insights gained from Aim 1 and single-channel recordings to test how electrostatic interactions in the linkers might be subunit-specific. Overall, the knowledge gained from these studies will provide significant insight into NMDAR gating and open avenues for potential sites of pharmacological intervention that are both subtype and subunit specific.

Public Health Relevance

Several nervous system disorders including neurodegenerative, developmental, and psychiatric diseases have been related to dysfunctional glutamatergic synapses but current treatments of these disorders are often non-specific and complicated by system-wide side effects. Glutamate receptors (iGluR) are a possible target for pharmacological intervention. Proper characterization of the electrical and physical interactions defining iGluR gating will further understanding of neurological disease and potentially lead to the development of iGluR specific treatments.

National Institute of Health (NIH)
National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS)
Predoctoral Individual National Research Service Award (F31)
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NST-2 Subcommittee (NST)
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Silberberg, Shai D
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State University New York Stony Brook
Schools of Medicine
Stony Brook
United States
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Alsaloum, Matthew; Kazi, Rashek; Gan, Quan et al. (2016) A Molecular Determinant of Subtype-Specific Desensitization in Ionotropic Glutamate Receptors. J Neurosci 36:2617-22
Kazi, Rashek; Dai, Jian; Sweeney, Cameron et al. (2014) Mechanical coupling maintains the fidelity of NMDA receptor-mediated currents. Nat Neurosci 17:914-22
Kazi, Rashek; Gan, Quan; Talukder, Iehab et al. (2013) Asynchronous movements prior to pore opening in NMDA receptors. J Neurosci 33:12052-66