Glutamate receptors expressed in Xenopus oocytes: Studies in function and regulation

William Bruce McVaugh, The University of Texas Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences at Houston


The amino acid glutamate is the primary excitatory neurotransmitter for the CNS and is responsible for the majority of fast synaptic transmission. Glutamate receptors have been shown to be involved in multiple forms of synaptic plasticity such as LTP, LTD, and the formation of specific synaptic connections during development. In addition to contributing to the plasticity of the CNS, glutamate receptors also are involved in, at least in part, various pathological conditions such as epilepsy, ischemic damage due to stroke, and Huntington's chorea. The regulation of glutamate receptors, particularly the ionotropic NMDA and AMPA/KA receptors is therefore of great interest. In this body of work, glutamate receptor function and regulation by kinase activity was examined using the Xenopus oocyte which is a convenient and faithful expression system for exogenous proteins. Glutamate receptor responses were measured using the two-electrode voltage clamp technique in oocytes injected with rat total forebrain RNA. NMDA elicited currents that were glycine-dependent, subject to block by Mg$\sp{2+}$ in a voltage-dependent manner and sensitive to the specific NMDA antagonist APV in a manner consistent with those types of responses found in neural tissue. Similarly, KA-evoked currents were sensitive to the specific AMPA/KA antagonist CNQX and exhibited current voltage relationships consistent with the calcium permeable type II KA receptors found in the hippocampus. There is evidence to indicate that NMDA and AMPA/KA receptors are regulated by protein kinase A (PKA). We explored this by examining the effects of activators of PKA (forskolin, 1-isobutyl-3-methylxanthine (IBMX) and 8-Br-cAMP) on NMDA and KA currents in the oocyte. In buffer where Ca$\sp{2+}$ was replaced by 2 mM Ba$\sp{2+},$ forskolin plus IBMX and 8-Br-cAMP augmented currents due to NMDA application but not KA. This augmentation was abolished by pretreating the oocytes in the kinase inhibitor K252A. The use of chloride channel blockers resulted in attenuation of this effect indicating that Ba$\sp{2+}$ influx through the NMDA channel was activating the endogenous calcium-activated chloride current and that the cAMP mediated augmentation was at the level of the chloride channel and not the NMDA channel. This was confirmed by (1) the finding that 8-Br-cAMP increased chloride currents elicited via calcium channel activation while having no effect on the calcium channels themselves and (2) the fact that lowering the Ba$\sp{2+}$ concentration to 200 $\mu$M abolished the augmentation NMDA currents by 8-Br-cAMP. Thus PKA does not appear to modulate ionotropic glutamate receptors in our preparation. Another kinase also implicated in the regulation of NMDA receptors, calcium/phospholipid-dependent protein kinase (PKC), was examined for its effects on the NMDA receptor under low Ba$\sp{2+}$ (200 $\mu$M) conditions. Phorbol esters, activators of PKC, induced a robust potentiation of NMDA currents that was blockable by the kinase inhibitor K252A. Furthermore activation of metabotropic receptors by the selective agonist trans-ACPD, also potentiated NMDA albeit more modestly. These results indicate that neither NMDA nor KA-activated glutamate receptors are modulated by PKA in Xenopus oocytes whereas NMDA receptors appear to be augmented by PKC. Furthermore, the endogenous chloride current of the oocyte was found to be responsive to Ba$\sp{2+}$ and in addition is enhanced by PKA. Both of these latter findings are novel. In conclusion, the Xenopus oocyte is a useful expression system for the analysis of ligand-gated channel activity and the regulation of those channels by phosphorylation.

Subject Area

Neurology|Molecular biology

Recommended Citation

McVaugh, William Bruce, "Glutamate receptors expressed in Xenopus oocytes: Studies in function and regulation" (1994). Texas Medical Center Dissertations (via ProQuest). AAI9502865.