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Keywords:

  • β-galactosidase activity;
  • immunohistochemistry;
  • PDZ domains;
  • rat;
  • yeast two-hybrid

Abstract

The NR1 and NR2 subunits of the N-methyl-d-aspartate (NMDA) receptor are encoded by distinct genes. In the rat brain, four C-terminal variants of the NR1 subunit (NR1-1 to NR1-4) are encoded by a single gene, and are generated by alternative splicing of the C1 and C2 exon cassettes, while four different genes encode the NR2 subunits (NR2 A–D). Functional NMDA receptors result from the heteromultimeric assembly of NR1 variants with distinct NR2 subunits. The NR2B subunit interacts with post-synaptic density protein 95 (PSD-95), SAP97 and members of the membrane-associated guanylate-like kinase (MAGUK) family of proteins. This interaction occurs through the binding of the C-terminal tSXV intracellular motif of the NR2B subunit to the N-terminal PDZ (PSD-95, discs-large, ZO-1) domains of the PSD-95 and SAP97 proteins. Both NR1-3 and NR1-4 also display a consensus C-terminal tSXV motif. Using the two-hybrid genetic system in yeast and site-directed mutagenesis, we compared the binding of the NR2A, NR1-3 and NR1-4 tSXV motifs with the PDZ domains of PSD-95 and SAP97. The main conclusions of the present report are that: (i) while NR2A displays a strong interaction with PSD-95 and SAP97, the NR1-3 and NR1-4 NMDA receptor subunits do not display any interaction despite the presence of tSXV motifs; (ii) the C-terminal tSXV motif of the NR2A subunit is mandatory but not sufficient for efficient interaction with the PSD-95 and SAP97 proteins; (iii) as yet unidentified upstream sequences of the receptor subunits determine whether the tSXV motifs will bind to the PSD-95 and SAP97 PDZ domains; (iv) different tSXV motifs elicit interactions of variable strengths; and (v) residues in positions –3 and –4 modulate the binding affinity of the C-terminal tSXV motifs. Using immunohistochemistry, we also compared the distribution of the PSD-95, NR2A and SAP97 proteins in adult rat brain, and we show that in the cortex, hippocampus and cerebellum, there is evidence for colocalization of these proteins.