Visualization of structural changes accompanying activation of N-methyl-D-aspartate (NMDA) receptors using fast-scan atomic force microscopy imaging.
ABSTRACT: NMDA receptors are widely expressed in the central nervous system and play a major role in excitatory synaptic transmission and plasticity. Here, we used atomic force microscopy (AFM) imaging to visualize activation-induced structural changes in the GluN1/GluN2A NMDA receptor reconstituted into a lipid bilayer. In the absence of agonist, AFM imaging revealed two populations of particles with heights above the bilayer surface of 8.6 and 3.4 nm. The taller, but not the shorter, particles could be specifically decorated by an anti-GluN1 antibody, which recognizes the S2 segment of the agonist-binding domain, indicating that the two populations represent the extracellular and intracellular regions of the receptor, respectively. In the presence of glycine and glutamate, there was a reduction in the height of the extracellular region to 7.3 nm. In contrast, the height of the intracellular domain was unaffected. Fast-scan AFM imaging combined with UV photolysis of caged glutamate permitted the detection of a rapid reduction in the height of individual NMDA receptors. The reduction in height did not occur in the absence of the co-agonist glycine or in the presence of the selective NMDA receptor antagonist D(-)-2-amino-5-phosphonopentanoic acid, indicating that the observed structural change was caused by receptor activation. These results represent the first demonstration of an activation-induced effect on the structure of the NMDA receptor at the single-molecule level. A change in receptor size following activation could have important functional implications, in particular by affecting interactions between the NMDA receptor and its extracellular synaptic partners.
Project description:N-methyl-d-aspartate (NMDA) receptors are the only neurotransmitter receptors whose activation requires two distinct agonists. Heterotetramers of two GluN1 and two GluN2 subunits, NMDA receptors are broadly distributed in the central nervous system, where they mediate excitatory currents in response to synaptic glutamate release. Pore opening depends on the concurrent presence of glycine, which modulates the amplitude and time course of the glutamate-elicited response. Gating schemes for fully glutamate- and glycine-bound NMDA receptors have been described in sufficient detail to bridge the gap between microscopic and macroscopic receptor behaviors; for several receptor isoforms, these schemes include glutamate-binding steps. We examined currents recorded from cell-attached patches containing one GluN1/GluN2A receptor in the presence of several glycine-site agonists and used kinetic modeling of these data to develop reaction schemes that include explicit glycine-binding steps. Based on the ability to match a series of experimentally observed macroscopic behaviors, we propose a model for activation of the glutamate-bound NMDA receptor by glycine that predicts apparent negative agonist cooperativity and glycine-dependent desensitization in the absence of changes in microscopic binding or desensitization rate constants. These results complete the basic steps of an NMDA receptor reaction scheme for the GluN1/GluN2A isoform and prompt a reevaluation of how glycine controls NMDA receptor activation. We anticipate that our model will provide a useful quantitative instrument to further probe mechanisms and structure-function relationships of NMDA receptors and to better understand the physiological and pathological implications of endogenous fluctuations in extracellular glycine concentrations.
Project description:Glutamate-gated channels mediate fundamental brain processes, yet the mechanisms by which the neurotransmitter controls channel activation are incompletely understood. Structural studies revealed that the agonist has the critical role of bridging the divide between two flexible extracellular lobes and solidified the view that agonist-induced cleft-closure drives further isomerizations, which eventually open the channel. Within the glutamate receptor family, NMDA-sensitive channels are unique in their requirement that both glycine and glutamate bind to homologous regions on GluN1 and GluN2 subunits, respectively, before the channel can open. To study the gating reaction in separation from agonist binding and dissociation, we characterized the kinetic mechanism of individual NMDA receptors whose ligand-binding clefts were locked shut by disulfide bridges engineered across lobes. We found that locking GluN1 domains had no observable consequences on receptor activity, whereas locking GluN2A domains increased channel activity without reducing the number of resolvable kinetic states. Based on these results, we suggest that glutamate but not glycine activates NMDA receptors with submaximal efficacy. Low glutamate efficacy may represent a mechanism by which the neurotransmitter maintains control over receptor kinetics despite sharing with glycine the task of activation.
Project description:N-methyl-d-aspartate (NMDA)-type ionotropic glutamate receptors mediate excitatory neurotransmission in the central nervous system and are critically involved in brain function. NMDA receptors are also implicated in psychiatric and neurological disorders and have received considerable attention as therapeutic targets. In this regard, administration of d-cycloserine (DCS), which is a glycine site NMDA receptor agonist, can enhance extinction of conditioned fear responses. The intriguing behavioral effects of DCS have been linked to its unique pharmacological profile among NMDA receptor subtypes (GluN1/2A-D), in which DCS is a superagonist at GluN2C-containing receptors compared with glycine and a partial agonist at GluN2B-containing receptors. Here, we identify (R)-2-amino-3-(4-(2-ethylphenyl)-1H-indole-2-carboxamido)propanoic acid (AICP) as a glycine site agonist with unique GluN2-dependent differences in agonist efficacy at recombinant NMDA receptor subtypes. AICP is a full agonist at GluN1/2A (100% response compared with glycine), a partial agonist at GluN1/2B and GluN1/2D (10% and 27%, respectively), and a highly efficacious superagonist at GluN1/2C receptors (353%). Furthermore, AICP potencies are enhanced compared with DCS with EC50 values in the low nanomolar range (1.7 nM at GluN1/2C). We show that GluN1/2C superagonism of AICP and DCS is mediated by overlapping but distinct mechanisms and that AICP selectively enhances responses from recombinant GluN1/2C receptors in the presence of physiological glycine concentrations. This functional selectivity of AICP for GluN2C-containing NMDA receptors is more pronounced compared with DCS, suggesting that AICP can be a useful tool compound for uncovering the roles of GluN2C subunits in neuronal circuit function and in the development of new therapeutic strategies.
Project description:NMDA receptors are ligand-gated ion channels that mediate excitatory neurotransmission in the brain and are involved in numerous neuropathological conditions. NMDA receptors are activated upon simultaneous binding of coagonists glycine and glutamate to the GluN1 and GluN2 subunits, respectively. Subunit-selective modulation of NMDA receptor function by ligand binding to modulatory sites distinct from the agonist binding sites could allow pharmacological intervention with therapeutically beneficial mechanisms. Here, we show the mechanism of action for 3-chloro-4-fluoro-N-[(4-[(2-(phenylcarbonyl)hydrazino)carbonyl]phenyl)methyl]-benzenesulfonamide (TCN-201), a new GluN1/GluN2A-selective NMDA receptor antagonist whose inhibition can be surmounted by glycine. Electrophysiological recordings from chimeric and mutant rat NMDA receptors suggest that TCN-201 binds to a novel allosteric site located at the dimer interface between the GluN1 and GluN2 agonist binding domains. Furthermore, we demonstrate that occupancy of this site by TCN-201 inhibits NMDA receptor function by reducing glycine potency. TCN-201 is therefore a negative allosteric modulator of glycine binding.
Project description:A series of analogues based on serine as lead structure were designed, and their agonist activities were evaluated at recombinant NMDA receptor subtypes (GluN1/2A-D) using two-electrode voltage-clamp (TEVC) electrophysiology. Pronounced variation in subunit-selectivity, potency, and agonist efficacy was observed in a manner that was dependent on the GluN2 subunit in the NMDA receptor. In particular, compounds 15a and 16a are potent GluN2C-specific superagonists at the GluN1 subunit with agonist efficacies of 398% and 308% compared to glycine. This study demonstrates that subunit-selectivity among glycine site NMDA receptor agonists can be achieved and suggests that glycine-site agonists can be developed as pharmacological tool compounds to study GluN2C-specific effects in NMDA receptor-mediated neurotransmission.
Project description:NMDA receptors are ligand-gated ion channels with essential roles in glutamatergic synaptic transmission and plasticity in the CNS. As co-receptors for glutamate and glycine, gating of the NMDA receptor/channel pore requires agonist binding to the glycine sites, as well as to the glutamate sites, on the ligand-binding domains of the receptor. In addition to channel gating, glycine has been found to prime NMDA receptors for internalization upon subsequent stimulation of glutamate and glycine sites.Here we address the key issue of identifying molecular determinants in the glycine-binding subunit, GluN1, that are essential for priming of NMDA receptors. We found that glycine treatment of wild-type NMDA receptors led to recruitment of the adaptor protein 2 (AP-2), and subsequent internalization after activating the receptors by NMDA plus glycine. However, with a glycine-binding mutant of GluN1 - N710R/Y711R/E712A/A714L - we found that treating with glycine did not promote recruitment of AP-2 nor were glycine-treated receptors internalized when subsequently activated with NMDA plus glycine. Likewise, GluN1 carrying a single point mutation - A714L - did not prime upon glycine treatment. Importantly, both of the mutant receptors were functional, as stimulating with NMDA plus glycine evoked inward currents.Thus, we have identified a single amino acid in GluN1 that is critical for priming of NMDA receptors by glycine. Moreover, we have demonstrated the principle that while NMDA receptor gating and priming share a common requirement for glycine binding, the molecular constraints in GluN1 for gating are distinct from those for priming.
Project description:GluN3A and GluN3B are glycine-binding subunits belonging to the NMDA receptor (NMDAR) family that can assemble with the GluN1 subunit to form unconventional receptors activated by glycine alone. Functional characterization of GluN1/GluN3 NMDARs has been difficult. Here, we uncover two modalities that have transformative properties on GluN1/GluN3A receptors. First, we identify a compound, CGP-78608, which greatly enhances GluN1/GluN3A responses, converting small and rapidly desensitizing currents into large and stable responses. Second, we show that an endogenous GluN3A disulfide bond endows GluN1/GluN3A receptors with distinct redox modulation, profoundly affecting agonist sensitivity and gating kinetics. Under reducing conditions, ambient glycine is sufficient to generate tonic receptor activation. Finally, using CGP-78608 on P8-P12 mouse hippocampal slices, we demonstrate that excitatory glycine GluN1/GluN3A NMDARs are functionally expressed in native neurons, at least in the juvenile brain. Our work opens new perspectives on the exploration of excitatory glycine receptors in brain function and development.
Project description:The N-methyl-d-aspartate (NMDA) receptor is a glutamatergic ion channel and is a known site of ethanol action. Evidence suggests that ethanol inhibits NMDA receptor activity by reducing channel open probability and mean open time potentially via interaction with specific residues within the transmembrane (M) domains 3 and 4 of GluN subunits. Recent models of NMDAR function demonstrate that extracellular residues near the M domains are key regulators of gating, suggesting that they may contribute to ethanol sensitivity. To test this, we substituted cysteines at key positions in GluN1 and GluN2 M3-S2 and S2-M4 regions previously shown to affect channel open probability and mean open time similar to ethanol treatment. Although crosslinking of these domains was predicted to restrict linker domain movement and occlude ethanol inhibition, only intra-GluN1 M1:M4 linker-crosslinked receptors showed a decrease in ethanol sensitivity. For the converse experiment, we expressed NMDARs with glycine substitutions in the S2-M4 domain of GluN subunits to enhance M4 flexibility and recorded currents in response to ethanol. Glycine substitution in the GluN1 S2-M4 region significantly decreased glutamate potency of GluN1(A804G)/GluN2A receptors, while GluN1(A804G)/GluN2B receptors exhibited no change in glutamate sensitivity. In contrast, GluN1/GluN2B(S811G) receptors showed a 10-fold increase in glutamate potency while GluN1/GluN2A(S810G) receptors showed no change. Surprisingly, while S2-M4 glycine substitutions modulated ethanol sensitivity, this was observed only in receptors that did not display a change in agonist potency. Overall, these results suggest that S2-M4 linkers strongly influence receptor function and modestly impact ethanol efficacy in a subunit- and receptor subtype-dependent manner.
Project description:N-methyl-D-aspartate (NMDA) receptor activation involves a dynamic series of structural rearrangements initiated by glutamate binding to glycine-loaded receptors and culminates with the clearing of the permeation pathway, which allows ionic flux. Along this sequence, three rate-limiting transitions can be quantified with kinetic analyses of single-channel currents, even though the structural determinants of these critical steps are unknown. In inactive receptors, the major permeation barrier resides at the intersection of four M3 transmembrane helices, two from each GluN1 and GluN2 subunits, at the level of the invariant SYTANLAAF sequence, known as the lurcher motif. Because the A7 but not A8 residues in this region display agonist-dependent accessibility to extracellular solutes, they were hypothesized to form the glutamate-sensitive gate. We tested this premise by examining the reaction mechanisms of receptors with substitutions in the lurcher motifs of GluN1 or GluN2A subunits. We found that, consistent with their locations relative to the proposed activation gate, A8Y decreased open-state stability, whereas A7Y dramatically stabilized open states, primarily by preventing gate closure; the equilibrium distribution of A7Y receptors was strongly shifted toward active states and resulted in slower microscopic association and dissociation rate constants for glutamate. In addition, for both A8- and A7-substituted receptors, we noticed patterns of kinetic changes that were specific to GluN1 or GluN2 locations. This may be a first indication that the sequence of discernible kinetic transitions during NMDA receptor activation may reflect subunit-dependent movements of M3 helices. Testing this hypothesis may afford insight into the activation mechanism of NMDA receptors.
Project description:At central nervous system synapses, agonist binding to postsynaptic ionotropic glutamate receptors (iGluRs) results in signaling between neurons. N-Methyl-D-aspartic acid (NMDA) receptors are a unique family of iGluRs that activate in response to the concurrent binding of glutamate and glycine. Here, we investigate the process of agonist binding to the GluN2A (glutamate binding) and GluN1 (glycine binding) NMDA receptor subtypes using long-timescale unbiased molecular dynamics simulations. We find that positively charged residues on the surface of the GluN2A ligand-binding domain (LBD) assist glutamate binding via a "guided-diffusion" mechanism, similar in fashion to glutamate binding to the GluA2 LBD of AMPA receptors. Glutamate can also bind in an inverted orientation. Glycine, on the other hand, binds to the GluN1 LBD via an "unguided-diffusion" mechanism, whereby glycine finds its binding site primarily by random thermal fluctuations. Free energy calculations quantify the glutamate- and glycine-binding processes.