Most excitatory synaptic excitation in the brain is mediated by glutamate receptors. NMDA receptors (NMDARs), a glutamate receptor subtype specifically activated by N-methyl-D-aspartate, are expressed on almost all mammalian central neurons. NMDARs exhibit high Ca2+ permeability and voltage-dependent channel block by Mg2+, characteristics that allow them to play central roles in synaptic plasticity and memory. NMDARs also are broadly involved in nervous system dysfunction, and have been implicated in many nervous system diseases including Alzheimer's disease (AD), Huntington's disease, schizophrenia, epilepsy, and depression. NMDARs are usually composed of two types of subunits, NR1 and NR2;there are four NR2 subunits encoded by separate genes (NR2A-NR2D), which, when combined with NR1, define four major NMDAR subtypes (NR1/2A - NR1/2D). The function of the NR1/2A and NR1/2B NMDAR subtypes, which are heavily expressed in adult cortex, have been extensively investigated. The function of the NR1/2C and NR1/2D NMDAR subtypes, which also are expressed in adult cortex (especially NR1/2D), although at lower levels than the other NMDAR subtypes, are less well understood. Recent data suggest that the NR1/2C and/or NR1/2D NMDARs play an especially important role in the clinical utility of the widely-used AD drug memantine, which is an antagonist of NMDARs. It appears surprising that memantine, a drug that slows cognitive decline in AD patients, would act by inhibiting NMDARs, which are essential for memory. The paradoxical therapeutic effects of memantine have been proposed to result from selective inhibition of NR1/2C and NR1/2D receptor subtypes located on cortical interneurons, resulting in cortical disinhibition. The involvement of NR1/2C and/or NR1/2D NMDARs in activation of inhibitory neurons also may be of special significance to animal models of schizophrenia. The broad objectives of this application are to uncover the roles of NR1/2C and NR1/2D NMDARs in the cortex, and to improve understanding of the mechanism of action of memantine. These objectives will be accomplished by determining: the neuronal subtypes in cortex that express NR1/2C and/or NR1/2D NMDARs;their synaptic versus extrasynaptic location;whether the receptors contribute to tonically active glutamate currents;the effects of memantine on NMDAR responses of several neuronal subtypes in cortex;how genetic deletion of the NR2D subunit affects NMDAR responses in neuronal subtypes in cortex;and the influence of NR2D subunit genetic deletion on the behavioral effects of memantine. To achieve these goals we will apply, to both wild-type and mutant rodents, a powerful combination of approaches, including electrophysiological recordings from brain slices, receptor identification with new pharmacological tools, and analysis of animal behavior. The proposed research will provide fundamental information on cortical NMDARs with broad implications for nervous system function and dysfunction, and will help explain the therapeutic mechanism of a widely used AD drug.

Public Health Relevance

The research proposed in this application will help us understand how inhibition in the brain is controlled, and how memantine, a drug used to treat Alzheimer's disease, affects inhibition. Understanding how inhibition is controlled will provide insight into normal brain function, and possibly into the changes in brain function that cause schizophrenia. Understanding how memantine helps patients with Alzheimer's disease may lead to the design of improved Alzheimer's disease treatments.

National Institute of Health (NIH)
National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS)
Exploratory/Developmental Grants (R21)
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Neurotransporters, Receptors, and Calcium Signaling Study Section (NTRC)
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Corriveau, Roderick A
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University of Pittsburgh
Schools of Arts and Sciences
United States
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Plowey, Edward D; Johnson, Jon W; Steer, Erin et al. (2014) Mutant LRRK2 enhances glutamatergic synapse activity and evokes excitotoxic dendrite degeneration. Biochim Biophys Acta 1842:1596-603
Kotermanski, Shawn E; Johnson, Jon W; Thiels, Edda (2013) Comparison of behavioral effects of the NMDA receptor channel blockers memantine and ketamine in rats. Pharmacol Biochem Behav 109:67-76
Povysheva, Nadezhda V; Johnson, Jon W (2012) Tonic NMDA receptor-mediated current in prefrontal cortical pyramidal cells and fast-spiking interneurons. J Neurophysiol 107:2232-43