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Role of NMDA Receptor Subtypes in Governing the Direction of Hippocampal Synaptic Plasticity

Science  14 May 2004:
Vol. 304, Issue 5673, pp. 1021-1024
DOI: 10.1126/science.1096615

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Abstract

Activation of N-methyl-d-aspartate subtype glutamate receptors (NMDARs) is required for long-term potentiation (LTP) and long-term depression (LTD) of excitatory synaptic transmission at hippocampal CA1 synapses, the proposed cellular substrates of learning and memory. However, little is known about how activation of NMDARs leads to these two opposing forms of synaptic plasticity. Using hippocampal slice preparations, we showed that selectively blocking NMDARs that contain the NR2B subunit abolishes the induction of LTD but not LTP. In contrast, preferential inhibition of NR2A-containing NMDARs prevents the induction of LTP without affecting LTD production. These results demonstrate that distinct NMDAR subunits are critical factors that determine the polarity of synaptic plasticity.

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