Facilitation of Spinal NMDA Receptor Currents by Spillover of Synaptically Released Glycine

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Science  27 Jun 2003:
Vol. 300, Issue 5628, pp. 2094-2097
DOI: 10.1126/science.1083970

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In the mammalian CNS, N-methyl-D-aspartate (NMDA) receptors serve prominent roles in many physiological and pathophysiological processes including pain transmission. For full activation, NMDA receptors require the binding of glycine. It is not known whether the brain uses changes in extracellular glycine to modulate synaptic NMDA responses. Here, we show that synaptically released glycine facilitates NMDA receptor currents in the superficial dorsal horn, an area critically involved in pain processing. During high presynaptic activity, glycine released from inhibitory interneurons escapes the synaptic cleft and reaches nearby NMDA receptors by so-called spillover. In vivo, this process may contribute to the development ofinflammatory hyperalgesia.

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