Functional organization of postsynaptic glutamate receptors

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Abstract

Glutamate receptors are the most abundant excitatory neurotransmitter receptors in the brain, responsible for mediating the vast majority of excitatory transmission in neuronal networks. The AMPA- and NMDA-type ionotropic glutamate receptors (iGluRs) are ligand-gated ion channels that mediate the fast synaptic responses, while metabotropic glutamate receptors (mGluRs) are coupled to downstream signaling cascades that act on much slower timescales. These functionally distinct receptor sub-types are co-expressed at individual synapses, allowing for the precise temporal modulation of postsynaptic excitability and plasticity. Intriguingly, these receptors are differentially distributed with respect to the presynaptic release site. While iGluRs are enriched in the core of the synapse directly opposing the release site, mGluRs reside preferentially at the border of the synapse. As such, to understand the differential contribution of these receptors to synaptic transmission, it is important to not only consider their signaling properties, but also the mechanisms that control the spatial segregation of these receptor types within synapses. In this review, we will focus on the mechanisms that control the organization of glutamate receptors at the postsynaptic membrane with respect to the release site, and discuss how this organization could regulate synapse physiology.

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