Disruption of the NMDA receptor-PSD-95 interaction in hippocampal neurons with no obvious physiological short-term effect

Indra A. Lim, Michelle A. Merrill, Yucui Chen, Johannes W Hell

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

55 Scopus citations


PSD-95 binds to and co-localizes with NMDA receptors at postsynaptic sites. Their co-expression in COS7 cells induces the formation of aggregates containing both proteins. These findings have lead to the hypothesis that PSD-95 helps to cluster NMDA receptors at postsynaptic sites. In addition, PSD-95 binds various regulatory proteins including Src, Pyk2, SynGAP, and nNOS and may recruit signaling proteins to NMDA receptors. We tested whether synaptic transmission or plasticity was affected by acute dissociation of the PSD-95-NMDA receptor interaction with various peptides that bound to the first two PDZ domains of PSD-95 and its homologs and with antibodies directed against the very C-terminus of the NR2A and NR2B subunits of the NMDA receptor. Membrane-impermeable peptides injected via whole cell patch electrodes distributed within minutes throughout dendritic branches into spines in acute hippocampal slices and membrane-permeable peptides containing 11 arginine residues effectively accumulated in neurites in slices and primary hippocampal cultures. Neither peptides nor antibodies showed any effect on basal synaptic transmission or induction of long-term potentiation (LTP) in hippocampal slices. Pharmacologically isolated NMDA receptor activity was also not affected. However, the membrane-permeable peptide disrupted the NMDA receptor-PSD-95 interaction in slices as tested by immunoprecipitation and subsequent immunoblotting. These findings suggest that acute dissociation of PSD-95 and its homologs from the NMDA receptor and likely from other protein complexes does not result in any easily detectable physiological effects in hippocampal slices. However, we cannot exclude a role of PSD-95 in early events that lead to clustering of NMDA receptors or of other proteins including stargazin and AMPA receptors at postsynaptic sites nor do these experiments address the possibility of long-term changes in the slices. In fact, incubation of primary hippocampal cultures with the membrane-permeable peptide lead to a moderate decrease in the number of dendritic clusters of PSD-95 and NMDA receptors and their colocalization by 20-30%, suggesting some role of PSD-95 and its homologs in NMDA receptor clustering.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)738-754
Number of pages17
Issue number6
StatePublished - Nov 2003
Externally publishedYes


  • AMPA receptor
  • AMPA, α-amino-3-hydroxy-5-methylisoxazole-4- propionic acid
  • DTT, dithiothreitol
  • EPSC, excitatory postsynaptic potential
  • Glutamate receptor
  • NMDA receptor
  • PDZ domains
  • Postsynaptic density
  • PSD-95
  • SAP102
  • SAP97

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience
  • Drug Discovery
  • Pharmacology


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