Cellular and synaptic distribution of NR2A and NR2B in macaque monkey and rat hippocampus as visualized with subunit-specific monoclonal antibodies

William G.M. Janssen, Prabakhar Vissavajjhala, Ginelle Andrews, Thomas Moran, Patrick R. Hof, John H. Morrison

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52 Scopus citations


The functional and pharmacological attributes of the N-methyl-d-aspartate (NMDA) receptor are related to its subunit composition, thus resolving the subunit composition of NMDA receptors in specific classes of synapses is an important step in characterizing excitatory circuits. Toward this end, mouse monoclonal antibodies were raised against fusion protein antigens corresponding to the putative amino acid sequences of human NMDA receptor subunits NR2A and NR2B. The subunit specificity of these monoclonal antibodies was demonstrated with transfected human and rat NMDA receptor cDNAs, and their immunoreactivity was established in rat, macaque monkey, and human brain tissue. At the light microscopic level, both NR2A and NR2B exhibit a distribution in monkey and rat hippocampus very similar to NMDA receptor subunit NR1, and both are highly colocalized with NR1. Electron microscopic immunogold studies demonstrated that both NR2A and NR2B are often present in asymmetric synapses in CA1, commonly colocalized with NR1, and often colocalized with each other in the same asymmetric synapses. Both assembly and synthetic pools are present within spines and spine necks, respectively, particularly for NR2A. The confocal and ultrastructural data suggest that whereas NR1, NR2A, and NR2B are essentially uniformly colocalized in hippocampal projection neurons, there is extensive heterogeneity at the synaptic level that would lead to multiple functional classes of NMDA receptor-mediated synapses, and extensive capacity for plasticity at the synapse. Thus, the subunit profile of a given synapse may be dynamic, with regulation of local synthesis and insertion of different subunits into the synapse leading to a complex, heterogeneous, and shifting set of functional attributes of the NMDA receptor.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)S28-S44
JournalExperimental Neurology
Issue numberSUPPL. 1
StatePublished - Feb 2005


  • Electron microscopy
  • Excitatory synapse
  • Glutamate
  • Immunogold
  • NMDA receptor
  • Spinophilin


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