Physiology and pathology of NMDA receptors
Petrovic M, Horak M, Sedlacek M, Vyklicky L Jr.
Department of Cellular Neurophysiology of the
Institute of Physiology of the Academy of Sciences CR,
Czech Republic.
Prague Med Rep. 2005;106(2):113-36


Ionotropic glutamate receptors of the N-methyl-D-aspartate (NMDA) subtype are highly expressed in the central nervous system and are involved in excitatory synaptic transmission and synaptic plasticity. Prolonged activation of NMDA receptors can lead to excitotoxicity, which is implicated in the pathogenesis of neurodegeneration occurring in various acute and chronic disorders of the central nervous system. Recent advances in understanding the function, pharmacology, genetics and structure of NMDA receptors has promoted a search for new compounds that could be therapeutically used. These compounds act on agonist binding sites, either apart from them or directly within the ion channel pore. Members of the last group are called open channel blockers, and some of them, such as memantine and ketamine, are already clinically used. Kinetic modeling of NMDA receptor activity was employed to define the effects of various groups of modulators. Quantifying the action of these substances by kinetic parameters can help us to reveal the molecular mechanism of action at the receptor and to characterize the dependence of its action on the mode of NMDA receptor activation. Two modes are considered: phasic activation, induced by synaptically released glutamate, and tonic activation, which is expected to occur under pathological conditions when low, but sustained levels of glutamate activate NMDA receptors. The aim of our review is to summarize the recent data about the structural and functional properties of NMDA receptors and their role in long-term potentiation and excitotoxicity.

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