Regulation of N-methyl-D-aspartate (NMDA) receptor function during the rearrangement of developing neuronal connections
There is evidence from a number of studies that the molecular and biophysical properties of NMDA receptors are altered during normal development. A temporal correlation with changes in NMDA receptor efficacy and periods of synaptic plasticity has been demonstrated in several systems, suggesting that NMDA receptors have a critical function in determining periods of synaptic plasticity. Data from our laboratory demonstrate reduced NMDA sensitivity of the tectal evoked potential following chronic application of NMDA to the tadpole tectum, a treatment that may mimic a naturally occurring mechanism for limiting neuronal plasticity to certain stages of development. Our analysis of the expression pattern of mRNA coding for various glutamate receptor subunits in the rat retinocollicular system establishes that differential regulation of NMDA receptor subunits at the mRNA level could be a molecular basis for changes in biophysical and pharmacological properties of the NMDA receptor complex. However, even though the NMDA receptor is the best studied candidate to function as a 'plasticity switch', there are large gaps in our understanding of the complete set of factors that control the ability of synapses to rearrange during development.
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