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Title: Functions of GluN2D-containing NMDA receptors in dopamine neurons of the substantia nigra pars compacta
Author: Morris, Paul George
Awarding Body: University of Cambridge
Current Institution: University of Cambridge
Date of Award: 2018
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Dopamine (DA) neurons of the substantia nigra pars compacta (SNc) have a key role in regulation of voluntary movement control. Their death is a hallmark of Parkinson’s disease, characterised by inhibited motor control, including muscle rigidity and tremor. Excitatory input to SNc-DA neurons is primarily from the subthalamic nucleus, and in PD these afferents display a higher frequency firing, as well as increased burst firing, which could cause increased excitatory activity in SNc-DA neurons. NMDA receptors (NMDARs) bind the excitatory neurotransmitter glutamate, and are essential for learning and memory. In SNc-DA neurons, NMDARs have a putative triheteromeric subunit arrangement of GluN1 plus GluN2B and/or GluN2D. Wild type (WT) mice, and those lacking the gene for GluN2D (Grin2D-null), were used to explore its role in various aspects of DA neuronal function and dysfunction using patch-clamp electrophysiology, viability assaying, and immunofluorescence. Pharmacological intervention using subunit-specific inhibitors ifenprodil and DQP-1105 on elicited NMDAR-EPSCs suggested a developmental shift from primarily GluN2B to GluN2B/D. Activity dependent regulation was assessed by high frequency burst stimulation of glutamatergic afferents: in comparison to controls, significant downregulation of NMDARs was observed in SNc-DA neurons, though no differences were observed based on genotype. This regulatory function may be a neuroprotective or homeostatic response. Ambient extracellular glutamate elicits tonic NMDAR activity in SNc-DA neurons, which may be important for maintaining basal levels of excitability: the role of GluN2D was assessed by recording the deflection in baseline current caused by application of competitive NMDAR antagonist D-AP5. There was a significantly larger NMDAR-mediated current in WT vs Grin2D-null mice, indicating that GluN2D has a role in binding ambient glutamate. Dysfunction of glutamate uptake could be a secondary pathophysiological occurrence in the SNc, leading to increased ambient glutamate: the effect of this was explored by application of the competitive glutamate transporter blocker TBOA. Here, the NMDAR-mediated portion of this current was significantly higher in WT mice in comparison to Grin2D-null. Interestingly, dose-response data obtained from bath application of NMDA showed significantly larger currents in Grin2D-null animals vs WT, but only at the top of the response curve (~1-10 mM), which may indicate a capability for larger conductance in Grin2D-null animals at high NMDAR saturation due to replacement of GluN2D with GluN2B. GluN2D may therefore be neuroprotective, by attenuating peak current flow in response to very high agonist concentrations. Lastly, GluN2D has been found to decrease NMDAR open probability under hypoxic conditions, potentially conferring resistance to hypoxia / ischemia related excitotoxicity. Therefore, low (15% O2 / 80% N2 / 5% CO2) vs high (95% O2 / 5% CO2) oxygen conditions were used along with immunofluorescent propidium iodide cell death assaying and immunofluorescent labeling for DA neurons in order to compare levels of DA neuronal death in the SNc based on oxygen status and genotype. Whilst there was a significant submaximal effect based on O2 status, genotype did not confer a practical resistance under these conditions. In summary, NMDARs have diverse roles in SNc-DA neurons which may both serve to maintain normal function and protect the cell against potentially pathological conditions.
Supervisor: Jones, Sue Sponsor: BBSRC
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
Keywords: PD ; Parkinson's Disease ; NMDA receptor ; NMDAR ; GluN2D ; NR2D ; substantia nigra pars compacta ; SNc ; activity-dependent regulation ; plasticity ; ambient glutamate ; hypoxia ; anoxia ; glutamate ; GluN2B ; triheteromer ; triheteromeric ; burst firing ; high-frequency ; LTD ; long-term depression