• AMPA receptors;
  • rat;
  • acute neurons;
  • topology


Excitatory amino acids exert a depolarizing action on central nervous system cells through an increase in cationic conductances. Non-NMDA receptors have been considered to be selectively permeable to Na+ and K+, while Ca2+ influx has been thought to occur through the NMDA receptor subtype. Recently, however, the expression of cloned non-NMDA receptor subunits has shown that α-amino-3-hydroxy-5-methyl-4-isoxazolepropionic acid (AMPA) receptors are permeable to Ca2+ whenever the receptor lacks a particular subunit (edited GluR-B). The behaviour of recombinant glutamate receptor channels predicts that Ca2+ would only permeate through receptors that show strong inward rectification and vice versa, i.e. AMPA receptors with linear current-voltage relationships would be impermeable to Ca2+ . Using the whole-cell configuration of the patch-clamp technique, we have studied the Ca2+ permeability and the rectifying properties of AMPA receptors, when activated by kainate, in hippocampal neurons kept in culture or acutely dissociated from differentiated hippocampus. Cells were classified according to whether they showed outward rectifying (type I), inward rectifying (type II) or almost linear (type III) current-voltage relationships for kainate-activated responses. AMPA receptors of type I cells (52.2%) were mostly Ca2+-impermeable (PcaIPcs= 0.1) while type II cells (6.5%) expressed Ca2+-permeable receptors (PcaIPcs=0.9).Type III cells (41.3%) showed responses with low but not negligible Ca2+ permeability (PcaIPcs= 0.18). The degree of Ca2+ permeability and inward rectification were well correlated in cultured cells, i.e. more inward rectification corresponded to higher Ca2+ permeability. In acutely dissociated neurons, the restricted activation of the receptors located either in dendritic or somatic membranes revealed that inward rectifying (i.e. Ca2+-permeable) AMPA receptors are preferentially located in the dendritic shaft (i.e. synaptic field). Our results indicate that oligomeric AMPA receptors of different subunit composition are coexpressed in dissimilar proportions in different cells, which would explain the incomplete inward rectification and graded Ca2+ permeability. In addition, Ca2+-permeable AMPA receptors may exhibit non-homogeneous subcellular distribution.