Xiong, ZQ (reprint author), Chinese Acad Sci, Shanghai Inst Biol Sci, 320 Yue Yang Rd, Shanghai 200031, Peoples R China,email@example.com
Fleeting activation of NMDA receptors (NMDARs) induces long-term modification of synaptic connections and refinement of neuronal circuits, which may underlie learning and memory and contribute to pathogenesis of a diversity of neurological diseases, including epilepsy. Here, we found that NR2A and NR2B subunit-containing NMDARs were coupled to distinct intracellular signaling, resulting in differential BDNF expression and extracellular signal-regulated kinase 1/2 (ERK1/2) activation. Selective activation of NR2A-containing NMDARs increased BDNF gene expression. Activation of NR2B-containing NMDARs led to ERK1/2 phosphorylation. Furthermore, selectively blocking NR2A-containing NMDARs impaired epileptogenesis and the development of mossy fiber sprouting in the kindling and pilocarpine rat models of limbic epilepsy, whereas inhibiting NR2B-containing NMDARs had no effects in epileptogenesis and mossy fiber sprouting. Interestingly, blocking either NR2A- or NR2B-containing NMDARs decreased status epilepticus-induced neuronal cell death. The specific requirement of NR2A and its downstream signaling for epileptogenesis implicates attractive new targets for the development of drugs that prevent epilepsy in patients with brain injury.