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A steroid modulatory domain in NR2A collaborates with NR1 exon-5 to control NMDAR modulation by pregnenolone sulfate and protons.

ABSTRACT: NMDA receptor (NMDAR)-mediated excitatory synaptic transmission plays a critical role in synaptic plasticity and memory formation, whereas its dysfunction may underlie neuropsychiatric and neurodegenerative diseases. The neuroactive steroid pregnenolone sulfate (PS) acts as a cognitive enhancer in impaired animals, augments LTP in hippocampal slices by enhancing NMDAR activity, and may participate in the reduction of schizophrenia's negative symptoms by systemic pregnenolone. We report that the effects of PS on NMDAR function are diverse, varying with subunit composition and NR1 splice variant. While PS potentiates NR1-1a/NR2B receptors through a critical steroid modulatory domain in NR2B that also modulates tonic proton inhibition, potentiation of the NMDA response is not dependent upon relief of such inhibition, a finding that distinguishes it from spermine. In contrast, the presence of an NR2A subunit confers enhanced PS-potentiation at reduced pH, suggesting that it may indeed act like spermine does at NR2B-containing receptors. Additional tuning of the NMDAR response by PS comes via the N-terminal exon-5 splicing insert of NR1-1b, which regulates the magnitude of proton-dependent PS potentiation. For NR2C- and NR2D-containing receptors, negative modulation at NR2C receptors is pH-independent (like NR2B) while negative modulation at NR2D receptors is pH-dependent (like NR2A). Taken together, PS displays a rich modulatory repertoire that takes advantage of the structural diversity of NMDARs in the CNS. The differential pH sensitivity of NMDAR isoforms to PS modulation may be especially important given the emerging role of proton sensors to both learning and memory, as well as brain injury.

SUBMITTER: Kostakis E 

PROVIDER: S-EPMC3360518 | BioStudies | 2011-01-01

REPOSITORIES: biostudies

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