Involvement of the N-methyl D-aspartate (NMDA) receptor in synapse elimination during cerebellar development

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Science  26 Jun 1992:
Vol. 256, Issue 5065, pp. 1823-1825
DOI: 10.1126/science.1352066


In many instances, the establishment of highly specific neuronal connections during development results from the rearrangement of axonal projections through the trimming of exuberant collaterals or the elimination of functional synapses or both. Although the involvement of the N-methyl D-aspartate (NMDA) subtype of the glutamate receptor has been demonstrated in the shaping of axonal arbors, its participation in the process of selective stabilization of synapses remains an open issue. In this study, the effects of chronic in vivo application of D,L-2-amino-5-phosphonovaleric acid (D,L-APV), a selective antagonist of the NMDA receptor, on the synapse elimination process that takes place in the developing cerebellum of the rat have been analyzed. D,L-APV treatment prevented the regression of supernumerary climbing fiber synapses in 49 percent of the recorded Purkinje cells, while the inactive isomer L-APV was ineffective. Thus, activation of the NMDA receptor is a critical step in the regression of functional synapses during development.