A molecular determinant for submillisecond desensitization in glutamate receptors

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Science  11 Nov 1994:
Vol. 266, Issue 5187, pp. 1059-1062
DOI: 10.1126/science.7973663


The decay of excitatory postsynaptic currents in central neurons mediated by alpha-amino-3-hydroxy-5-methyl-4-isoxazole-propionate (AMPA) receptors is likely to be shaped either by receptor desensitization or by offset after removal of glutamate from the synaptic cleft. Native AMPA receptors show desensitization time constants of 1 to about 10 milliseconds, but the underlying molecular determinants of these large differences are unknown. Cloned AMPA receptors carrying the "flop" splice variants of glutamate receptor subtype C (GluR-C) and GluR-D are shown to have desensitization time constants of around 1 millisecond, whereas those with the "flip" variants are about four times slower. Cerebellar granule cells switch their expression of GluR-D splice variants from mostly flip forms in early stages to predominantly flop forms in the adult rat brain. These findings suggest that rapid desensitization of AMPA receptors can be regulated by the expression and alternative splicing of GluR-D gene transcripts.

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