BackgroundZinc distributes widely in the central nervous system, especially in the hippocampus, amygdala and cortex. The dynamic balance of zinc is critical for neuronal functions. Zinc modulates the activity of N-methyl-D-aspartate receptors (NMDARs) through the direct inhibition and various intracellular signaling pathways. Abnormal NMDAR activities have been implicated in the aetiology of many brain diseases. Sustained zinc accumulation in the extracellular fluid is known to link to pathological conditions. However, the mechanism linking this chronic zinc exposure and NMDAR dysfunction is poorly understood.
Methodology/principal findingsWe reported that chronic zinc exposure reduced the numbers of NR1 and NR2A clusters in cultured hippocampal pyramidal neurons. Whole-cell and synaptic NR2A-mediated currents also decreased. By contrast, zinc did not affect NR2B, suggesting that chronic zinc exposure specifically influences NR2A-containg NMDARs. Surface biotinylation indicated that zinc exposure attenuated the membrane expression of NR1 and NR2A, which might arise from to the dissociation of the NR2A-PSD-95-Src complex.
ConclusionsChronic zinc exposure perturbs the interaction of NR2A to PSD-95 and causes the disorder of NMDARs in hippocampal neurons, suggesting a novel action of zinc distinct from its acute effects on NMDAR activity.
SUBMITTER: Zhu J