Decreased NR1 Phosphorylation and Decreased NMDAR Function in Hibernating Arctic Ground Squirrels

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Heterothermic mammals such as ground squirrels tolerate ischemia and N-methyl-D-aspartate (NMDA) better than homeothermic mammals such as rats both in vivo and in vitro, and this tolerance is enhanced in the hibernating state. However, the cellular mechanisms underlying this tolerance remain unclear. NMDA receptors (NMDAR) play a key role in excitotoxicity. The purpose of the current study was therefore to test the hypothesis that NMDAR are down-regulated in hibernating Arctic ground squirrels (hAGS; Spermophilus parryii). To address this hypothesis, we used Western blot analysis to investigate NMDAR phosphorylation, an activator of NMDAR function, and internalization in naïve hippocampal tissue from hAGS, interbout euthermic AGS (ibeAGS), and rats. Furthermore, we used fura-2 calcium imaging to examine NMDAR function in cultured hippocampal slices from hAGS, ibeAGS, and rats. We report that phosphorylation of the NMDAR1 (NR1) subunit is decreased in hippocampal tissue from hAGS and that the NMDAR component of Glu-induced increase in [Ca2+]i is decreased in hippocampal slices from hAGS. Moreover, the fraction of NR1 in the functional membrane pool in AGS is less than that in rats.

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