Physiological Reviews

Glutamate receptors in cortical plasticity: molecular and cellular biology

L. Kaczmarek, M. Kossut, J. Skangiel-Kramska


Glutamate receptors (GluRs) provide the major excitatory input to cortical neurons. Four main subtypes of GluRs are distinguished, namely, N-methyl-D-aspartate, alpha-amino-3-hydroxy-5-methylisoxazole-4-propionic acid, kainate, and metabotropic receptors. All of them have been implicated in neuronal plasticity, and this paper reviews data that may be pertinent to the role played by GluRs in neocortical plasticity both in adult animals as well as during postnatal development. Emphasis is given to receptor distribution analyzed by various means, such as physiological responses, ligand binding as revealed by receptor autoradiography, and expression of receptor subunits at both mRNA and protein (immunoreactivity) levels. Possible mechanisms of involvement of GluRs in plastic changes on cortical neuron response are reviewed, and data on up- and downregulation of GluRs in neocortical plasticity are summarized. Functional studies involving either activation or blocking, and effects of such manipulation on cortical plasticity are discussed.