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Higher ambient synaptic glutamate at inhibitory versus excitatory neurons differentially impacts NMDA receptor activity

Abstract : Selective disruption of synaptic drive to inhibitory neurons could contribute to the pathophysiology of various brain disorders. We have previously identified a GluN2A-selective positive allosteric modulator, GNE-8324, that selectively enhances N-methyl-D-aspartate receptor (NMDAR)-mediated synaptic responses in inhibitory but not excitatory neurons. Here, we demonstrate that differences in NMDAR subunit composition do not underlie this selective potentiation. Rather, a higher ambient glutamate level in the synaptic cleft of excitatory synapses on inhibitory neurons is a key factor. We show that increasing expression of glutamate transporter 1 (GLT-1) eliminates GNE-8324 potentiation in inhibitory neurons, while decreasing GLT-1 activity enables potentiation in excitatory neurons. Our results reveal an unsuspected difference between excitatory synapses onto different neuronal types, and a more prominent activation of synaptic NMDARs by ambient glutamate in inhibitory than excitatory neurons. This difference has implications for tonic NMDAR activity/signaling and the selective modulation of inhibitory neuron activity to treat brain disorders.
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Lulu Yao, Teddy Grand, Jesse Hanson, Pierre Paoletti, Qiang Zhou. Higher ambient synaptic glutamate at inhibitory versus excitatory neurons differentially impacts NMDA receptor activity. Nature Communications, Nature Publishing Group, 2018, 9 (1), ⟨10.1038/s41467-018-06512-7⟩. ⟨inserm-02438982⟩

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