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Key Event Title
Binding of agonist, Ionotropic glutamate receptors
|Level of Biological Organization|
Key Event Components
|ionotropic glutamate receptor activity||ionotropic glutamate receptor complex||increased|
Key Event Overview
AOPs Including This Key Event
Key Event Description
The MIE of this AOP can be triggered by direct binding of an agonist to NMDARs or indirectly through initial activation of KA/AMPARs. Indeed, binding of agonist to KA/AMPARs results in ion influx (Na+ and a small efflux of K+) and glutamate release from excitatory synaptic vesicles causing depolarization of the postsynaptic neuron (Dingledine et al. 1999). Upon this depolarization the Mg2+ block is removed from the pore of NMDARs, allowing sodium, potassium, and importantly, calcium ions to enter into a cell. At positive potentials NMDARs then show maximal permeability (i.e., large outward currents can be observed under these circumstances). Due to the time needed for the Mg2+ removal, NMDARs activate more slowly, having a peak conductance long after the KA/AMPAR peak conductance takes place. It is important to note that NMDARs conduct currents only when Mg2+ block is relieved, glutamate is bound, and the postsynaptic neuron is depolarized. For this reason the NMDA receptors act as “coincidence detectors” and play a fundamental role in the establishment of Hebbian synaptic plasticity which is considered the physiological correlate of associative learning (Daoudal and Debanne, 2003; Glanzman, 2005). Post-synaptic membrane depolarization happens almost always through activation of KA/AMPARs (Luscher and Malenka, 2012). Therefore, a MIE of this AOP is defined as binding of an agonist to these three types of ionotropic receptors (KA/AMPA and NMDA) that can result in a prolonged overactivation of NMDARs through (a) direct binding of an agonist or (b) indirect, mediated through initial KA/AMPARs activation. The excitotoxic neuronal cell death, triggered by sustained NMDARs overactivation in the hippocampus and/or cortex leads to the impaired learning and memory, defined as the adverse outcome (AO) of this AOP.
Biological state: L-glutamate (Glu) is a neurotransmitter with important role in the regulation of brain development and maturation processes. Two major classes of Glu receptors, ionotropic and metabotropic, have been identified. Due to its physiological and pharmacological properties, Glu activates three classes of ionotropic receptors named: α-amino-3-hydroxy-5-methyl-4-isoazolepropionic acid (AMPA receptors), 2-carboxy-3-carboxymethyl-4-isopropenylpyrrolidine (kainate receptors) and N-methyl-D-aspartate (NMDA receptors, NMDARs), which transduce the postsynaptic signal. Ionotropic glutamate receptors are integral membrane proteins formed by four large subunits that compose a central ion channel pore. In case of NMDA receptors, two NR1 subunits are combined with either two NR2 (NR2A, NR2B, NR2C, NR2D) subunits and less commonly are assembled together with a combination of NR2 and NR3 (A, B) subunits (reviewed in Traynelis et al., 2010). To be activated NMDA receptors require simultaneous binding of both glutamate to NR2 subunits and of glycine to either NR1 or NR3 subunits that provide the specific binding sites named extracellular ligand-binding domains (LBDs). Apart from LBDs, NMDA receptor subunits contain three more domains that are considered semiautonomous: 1) the extracellular amino-terminal domain that plays important role in assembly and trafficking of these receptors; 2) the transmembrane domain that is linked with LBD and contributes to the formation of the core of the ion channel and 3) the intracellular carboxyl-terminal domain that influences membrane targeting, stabilization, degradation and post-translation modifications.
Biological compartments: The genes of the NMDAR subunits are expressed in various tissues and are not only restricted to the nervous system. The level of expression of these receptors in neuronal and non-neuronal cells depends on: transcription, chromatin remodelling, mRNA levels, translation, stabilization of the protein, receptor assembly and trafficking, energy metabolism and numerous environmental stimuli (reviewed in Traynelis et al., 2010). In hippocampus region of the brain, NR2A and NR2B are the most abundant NR2 family subunits. NR2A-containing NMDARs are mostly expressed synaptically, while NR2B-containing NMDARs are found both synaptically and extrasynaptically (Tovar and Westbrook, 1999).
General role in biology: NMDA receptors, when compared to the other Glu receptors, are characterized by higher affinity for Glu, slower activation and desensitisation kinetics, higher permeability for calcium (Ca2+) and susceptibility to potential-dependent blockage by magnesium ions (Mg2+). NMDA receptors are involved in fast excitatory synaptic transmission and neuronal plasticity in the central nervous system (CNS). Functions of NMDA receptors:
1. They are involved in cell signalling events converting environmental stimuli to genetic changes by regulating gene transcription and epigenetic modifications in neuronal cells (Cohen and Greenberg, 2008).
2. In NMDA receptors, the ion channel is blocked by extracellular Mg2+ and Zn2+ ions, allowing the flow of Na+ and Ca2+ ions into the cell and K+ out of the cell which is voltage-dependent. Ca2+ flux through the NMDA receptor is considered to play a critical role in pre- and post-synaptic plasticity, a cellular mechanism important for learning and memory (Barria and Malinow, 2002).
3. The NMDA receptors have been shown to play an essential role in the strengthening of synapses and neuronal differentiation, through long-term potentiation (LTP), and the weakening of synapses, through long-term depression (LTD). All these processes are implicated in the memory and learning function (Barria and Malinow, 2002).
How It Is Measured or Detected
Methods that have been previously reviewed and approved by a recognized authority should be included in the Overview section above. All other methods, including those well established in the published literature, should be described here. Consider the following criteria when describing each method: 1. Is the assay fit for purpose? 2. Is the assay directly or indirectly (i.e. a surrogate) related to a key event relevant to the final adverse effect in question? 3. Is the assay repeatable? 4. Is the assay reproducible?
1. Ex vivo: The most common assay used is the NMDA receptor (MK801 site) radioligand competition binding assay (Reynolds and Palmer, 1991; Subramaniam and McGonigle, 1991; http://pdsp.med.unc.edu/UNC-CH%20Protocol%20Book.pdf; http://www.currentprotocols.com/WileyCDA/CPUnit/refId-ph0120.html). This assay is based on the use of the most potent and specific antagonist of this receptor, MK801 that is used to detect and differentiate agonists and antagonists (competitive and non-competitive) that bind to this specific site of the receptor. Also radioligand competition binding assay can be performed using D, L-(E)-2-amino-4-[3H]-propyl-5-phosphono-3-pentenoic acid ([3H]-CGP 39653), a high affinity selective antagonist at the glutamate site of NMDA receptor, which is a quantitative autoradiography technique (Mugnaini et al., 1996). D-AP5, a selective N-methyl-D-aspartate (NMDA) receptor antagonist that competitively inhibits the glutamate binding site of NMDA receptors, can be studied by evoked electrical activity measurements. AP5 has been widely used to study the activity of NMDA receptors particularly with regard to researching synaptic plasticity, learning, and memory (Evans et al.,1982; Morris, 1989). The saturation binding of radioligands are used to measure the affinity (Kd) and density (Bmax) of kainate and AMPA receptors in striatum, cortex and hippocampus (Kürschner et al., 1998).
2. In silico: The prediction of NMDA receptor targeting is achievable by combining database mining, molecular docking, structure-based pharmacophore searching, and chemical similarity searching methods together (Neville and Lytton, 1999; Mazumder Borah, 2014)
Domain of Applicability
The major determinants for ligand e.g. for both co-agonist glycine binding and L-glutamate binding are well conserved between species from lower organism to mammals (reviewed in Xia and Chiang, 2009). PCR analysis, cloning and subsequent sequencing of the seal lion NMDA receptors showed 80% homology to those from rats, but more than 95% homologus to those from dogs (Gill et al., 2010).
(for Abstract and MIE)
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