Developmental expression, compartmentalization, and possible role in excitotoxicity of a putative NMDA receptor protein in cultured hippocampal neurons

Mark P. Mattson, Hong Wang, Elias K. Michaelis

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


The mechanisms regulating the expression and localization of excitatory amino acid (EAA) neurotransmitter receptors in neurons of the developing mammalian brain, and roles for these receptors in the plasticity and degeneration of neural circuits are not well understood. We previously isolated and characterized a 71 kDa glutamate binding protein (GBP) from rat brain, and have recently obtained evidence that this GBP is a component of a functional N-methyl-d-aspartate (NMDA) receptor-ion channel complex. We have now used antibodies to this putative NMDA receptor protein to examine its expression and localization, and consequences of its activation in cultured embryonic (18 day) rat hippocampal neurons. Immunocytochemistry and Western blots using monoclonal antibodies to the GBP demonstrated an increase in GBP-positive neurons and their staining intensity with time in culture, GBP was localized to the somata and dendrites of pyramidal-like neurons and was sparse or absent in the axons. The expression and compartmentalization of GBP occurred in isolated neurons indicating that direct cell interactions were not required for these processes. Cell surface staining for GBP occurred in patches on the soma and dendrites. The developmental expression of GBP immunoreactivity closely paralleled the expression of sensitivity to NMDA neurotoxicity. There was a direct relationship between GBP immunoreactivity and neuronal vulnerability to glutamate-induced degeneration; vulnerable neurons stained heavily whereas resistant neurons showed either low levels of staining or no staining. Finally, a GBP antiserum greatly reduced NMDA neurotoxicity (but not kainate neurotoxicity). Taken together, these findings demonstrate the expression of presumptive NMDA receptors within a subpopulation of embryonic hippocampal neurons, and their segregation to the soma and dendrites of pyramidal neurons. This spatial distribution of glutamate receptors among and within neurons is likely to play important roles in regulating the structure of neural circuitry during development, and may also be an important determinant of selective neuronal vulnerability in pathological conditions.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)94-108
Number of pages15
JournalBrain Research
Issue number1
StatePublished - Nov 22 1991
Externally publishedYes


  • Axon
  • Cell culture
  • Dendrite
  • Development
  • Excitatory amino acid receptor
  • Hippocampus
  • Immunocytochemistry
  • Neurodegeneration

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Developmental Biology
  • Molecular Biology
  • Clinical Neurology
  • Neuroscience(all)

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