Characterization of [3H]MK-801 binding to N-methyl-D-aspartate receptors in cultured rat cerebellar granule neurons and involvement in glutamate-mediated toxicity

Frederick W. Berman, Thomas F. Murray

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The conditions required for growth and survival of cerebellar granule neurons in vitro are known to alter the developmental regulation of NMDA receptor subunit mRNA. In the present report, we have examined the functional and pharmacological characteristics of NMDA receptors on cerebellar granule neurons at 12 days in culture (12 DIC). Under open-channel conditions in extensively washed membranes, [3H]MK-801 labeled a uniform population of sites (Kd = 3.2 ± 0.3 nM) in a saturable manner (Bmax = 416 ± 18 fmol/mg); however, biexponential association and dissociation kinetics indicated the possible existence of at least two NMDA receptor populations that differ in pharmacological properties. The kinetically derived equilibrium dissociation constants for the high- and low-affinity binding components were 0.56 and 771 nM, respectively. The equilibrium competition analysis of MK-801 and other channel-blocking compounds as displacers of [3H]MK-801 revealed the presence of high- and low-affinity binding sites with relative apportionments of 70% and 30%, respectively. The rank-order potency profile of competitor binding at the high-affinity site was (+)-MK-801 > TCP > dextrorphan > dextromethorphan > (+)-ketamine. When tested for the ability to protect 12 DIC cerebellar granule neurons from acute glutamate-induced toxicity, the neuroprotective rank-order potency of these compounds was MK-801 > TCP > dextrorphan > (+)-ketamine > dextromethorphan, which correlated significantly with the high-affinity competition binding profile and thus established the role of NMDA receptors in glutamate toxicity. The findings of these experiments indicate that NMDA receptors on 12 DIC cerebellar granule neurons are a heterogenous population that functionally mediate glutamate-induced neurotoxicity. The heterogenous [3H]MK-801 binding sites may represent NMDA receptor channels composed of different subunits.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)217-226
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Biochemical Toxicology
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 1996
Externally publishedYes


All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Toxicology

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