Classical NMDA receptors (NMDARs), activated by glycine and glutamate, are heteromultimers comprised of NR1 and NR2 subunits. Coexpression of the novel NR3 family of NMDAR subunits decreases the magnitude of NR1/NR2 receptor-mediated currents or forms glycine-activated channels with the NR1 subunit alone. The second (M2) and third (M3) membrane segments of NR1 and NR2 subunits of classical NMDARs form the core of the channel permeation pathway. Structural information regarding NR1/NR3 channels remains unknown. Using the Xenopus oocyte expression system and the SCAM (substituted cysteine accessibility method), we found that M3 segments of both NR1 and NR3A form a narrow constriction in the outer vestibule of the channel, which prevents passage of externally applied sulfhydryl-specific agents. The most internal reactive residue in each M3 segment is the threonine in the conserved SYTANLAAF motif. These threonines appear to be symmetrically aligned. Several NR3A M3 mutations change the behavior of NR1/NR3A channels. Unlike NR1, however, the M3 segment of NR3A does not undergo extensive molecular rearrangement during channel gating by added glycine. Additionally, in the M2 segment, our data suggest that the amino acid at the asparagine (N) site of NR1, but not NR3A, contributes to the selectivity filter of NR1/3A channels. We therefore conclude that NR3A modulates the NR1/NR3A permeation pathway via a novel mechanism of forming a narrow constriction at the outer channel vestibule. This modified channel vestibule may also explain the dominant-negative effect of the NR3 subunit on channel behavior when coexpressed with NR1 and NR2 subunits.
"The presence of GluN3A results in two distinct independent conductance states: the typical large conductance state, similar to what is found in conventional receptors, and the second significantly smaller, which exhibits a slight increase in mean opening time   . Ca 2+ permeability in GluN3A-containing NMDAR is significantly reduced    due to the constriction of the outer vestibule . Another prominent feature of GluN3A-containing receptors is the insensitivity to Mg 2+ block at hyperpolarized potential: even with varying concentrations of Mg 2+ , GluN3A prevents a Mg 2+ block   (Figure 1); these properties are further characterized in other reviews on GluN3; see   . "
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: N-methyl-D-aspartate receptors (NMDAR) are pivotal for synaptic plasticity and memory formation. Conventional NMDAR consist of heterotetrameric structures composed of GluN1 and GluN2 subunits. A third subunit, GluN3, can also assemble with NMDAR subunits giving a remarkable modification of their heteromeric structure, forming a "nonconventional" NMDAR. As a consequence, the stoichiometry and kinetic properties of the receptors are dramatically changed. Among the GluN3 family, the GluN3A subunit has been the focus of a large amount of studies during recent years. These studies reveal that GluN3A is transiently expressed during development and could play a role in the fine tuning of neuronal networks as well as associated diseases. Moreover, GluN3A distribution outside the postsynaptic densities, including perisynaptic astrocytes, places it at a strategic position to play an important role in the interactions between neurons and glial cells. This review highlights GluN3A properties and addresses its role in neurophysiology and associated pathologies.
"Thus, unlike most NMDAR subunits, NR3A acts in a novel, dominant-negative manner to limit receptor function and the ability of synapses to strengthen , . Interestingly, however, when expressed with NR1 alone, in the absence of NR2 subunits, NR3-NMDARs form a glycine-sensitive cation channel , , ; although these NR1/NR3 channels appear to be expressed in myelin rather than neurons . "
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Glutamatergic synapse maturation is critically dependent upon activation of NMDA-type glutamate receptors (NMDARs); however, the contributions of NR3A subunit-containing NMDARs to this process have only begun to be considered. Here we characterized the expression of NR3A in the developing mouse forebrain and examined the consequences of NR3A deletion on excitatory synapse maturation. We found that NR3A is expressed in many subcellular compartments, and during early development, NR3A subunits are particularly concentrated in the postsynaptic density (PSD). NR3A levels dramatically decline with age and are no longer enriched at PSDs in juveniles and adults. Genetic deletion of NR3A accelerates glutamatergic synaptic transmission, as measured by AMPAR-mediated postsynaptic currents recorded in hippocampal CA1. Consistent with the functional observations, we observed that the deletion of NR3A accelerated the expression of the glutamate receptor subunits NR1, NR2A, and GluR1 in the PSD in postnatal day (P) 8 mice. These data support the idea that glutamate receptors concentrate at synapses earlier in NR3A-knockout (NR3A-KO) mice. The precocious maturation of both AMPAR function and glutamate receptor expression are transient in NR3A-KO mice, as AMPAR currents and glutamate receptor protein levels are similar in NR3A-KO and wildtype mice by P16, an age when endogenous NR3A levels are normally declining. Taken together, our data support a model whereby NR3A negatively regulates the developmental stabilization of glutamate receptors involved in excitatory neurotransmission, synaptogenesis, and spine growth.
PLoS ONE 08/2012; 7(8):e42327. DOI:10.1371/journal.pone.0042327 · 3.23 Impact Factor
"NR3 naturally supplies this glycine, and thus downregulates NMDAR-mediated Ca2+ influx - as has already been shown for proposedly triheteromeric NMDARs [36,37]. On the other hand, possibly due to the unique alignment of the NR1 and NR3 residues at the level of the pore , an arginine at the NR3 N+1 position does not impede permeability for Ca2+. "
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Members of the complex N-methyl-D-aspartate receptor (NMDAR) subfamily of ionotropic glutamate receptors (iGluRs) conventionally assemble from NR1 and NR2 subunits, the composition of which determines receptor properties. Hallmark features of conventional NMDARs include the requirement for a coagonist, voltage-dependent block by Mg2+, and high permeability for Ca2+. Both Mg2+ sensitivity and Ca2+ permeability are critically dependent on the amino acids at the N and N+1 positions of NR1 and NR2. The recently discovered NR3 subunits feature an unprecedented glycine-arginine combination at those critical sites within the pore. Diheteromers assembled from NR1 and NR3 are not blocked by Mg2+ and are not permeable for Ca2+.
Employing site-directed mutagenesis of receptor subunits, electrophysiological characterization of mutants in a heterologous expression system, and molecular modeling of the NMDAR pore region, we have investigated the contribution of the unusual NR3 N and N+1 site residues to the unique functional characteristics of receptors containing these subunits. Contrary to previous studies, we provide evidence that both the NR3 N and N+1 site amino acids are critically involved in mediating the unique pore properties. Ca2+ permeability could be rescued by mutating the NR3 N site glycine to the NR1-like asparagine. Voltage-dependent Mg2+ block could be established by providing an Mg2+ coordination site at either the NR3 N or N+1 positions. Conversely, "conventional" receptors assembled from NR1 and NR2 could be made Mg2+ insensitive and Ca2+ impermeable by equipping either subunit with the NR3-like glycine at their N positions, with a stronger contribution of the NR1 subunit.
This study sheds light on the structure-function relationship of the least characterized member of the NMDAR subfamily. Contrary to previous reports, we provide evidence for a critical functional involvement of the NR3 N and N+1 site amino acids, and propose them to be the essential determinants for the unique pore properties mediated by this subunit.
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