Glutamate receptor modulation by protein phosphorylation

L. A. Raymond, W. G. Tingley, C. D. Blackstone, K. W. Roche, R. L. Huganir

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

104 Scopus citations


Glutamate-gated ion channels mediate most excitatory synaptic transmission in the mammalian central nervous system and play major roles in synaptic plasticity, neuronal development, and in some neuropathological conditions. Recent studies have suggested that protein phosphorylation of neuronal glutamate receptors by cyclic AMP-dependent protein kinase (PKA) and protein kinase C (PKC) may regulate their function and play a role in some forms of synaptic plasticity. To test whether these protein kinase effects are due to direct phosphorylation of the receptors and to further examine the sites and mechanisms by which the receptors are modulated, we transiently expressed recombinant glutamate receptors in HEK-293 cells and studied their biochemical and biophysical properties. Our results indicate that the kainate-preferring receptor GluR6 is phosphorylated by PKA, primarily on a single serine in the proposed major intracellular loop. Moreover, using the whole cell patch clamp recording technique, we have shown that phosphorylation at this site increases the amplitude of the GluR6-mediated glutamate current without significantly altering its dose-response, current-voltage relation or desensitization kinetics. In other experiments, we have demonstrated that the NMDA receptor subunit NR1 is phosphorylated by PKC on several distinct sites, and most of these sites are located within a single alternatively spliced exon in the C-terminal domain. These findings suggest that RNA splicing can regulate NMDA receptor phosphorylation and that, contrary to the previously proposed membrane topology model, the NR1 C-terminus is intracellular. Furthermore, in HEK-293 cells co-transfected with NR2A and NR1 subunits containing the C-terminal exon with the PKC phosphorylation sites, our preliminary studies indicate that the NMDA-evoked current is potentiated by intracellular PKC. We are currently examining PKC effects on the NMDA-evoked current responses of mutant NR1 receptors that lack the C-terminal phosphorylation sites. These studies provide evidence that glutamate receptors are directly phosphorylated and functionally modulated by protein kinases. Moreover, by identifying phosphorylation sites within the receptor proteins, our results provide information about the structure and membrane topology of these receptors.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)181-192
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Physiology - Paris
Issue number3
StatePublished - 1994


  • glutamate receptors
  • ion channel
  • protein phosphorylation
  • synaptic plasticity

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience(all)
  • Physiology (medical)


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