The Journal of biological chemistry

The integrity of the glycine co-agonist binding site of N-methyl-D-aspartate receptors is a functional quality control checkpoint for cell surface delivery.

PMID 18990687


N-Methyl-D-aspartate receptors are a subclass of ligand-gated, heteromeric glutamatergic neurotransmitter receptors whose cell surface expression is regulated by quality control mechanisms. Functional quality control checkpoints are known to contribute to cell surface trafficking of non-N-methyl-D-aspartate glutamate receptors. Here we investigated if similar mechanisms operate for the surface delivery of NMDA receptors. Point mutations in the glycine binding domain of the NR1-1a subunit were generated: D732A, a mutation that results in an approximately 3 x 10(4) decrease in glycine binding affinity; D732E, a conservative change; and D723A, a residue in the same NR1-1a domain that has no effect on glycine binding affinity. Each NR1-1a subunit was co-expressed with NR2A in mammalian cells. Immunoblotting and immunoprecipitations showed that all mutants were expressed to similar levels as wild-type NR1-1a and associated with NR2A. Cell surface expression measured by an enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay found that whereas NR1-1a (D732E)/NR2A and NR1-1a (D723A)/NR2A trafficked as efficiently as NR1-1a/NR2A, there was a 90% decrease in surface expression for NR1-1a (D732A)/NR2A. This was confirmed by confocal microscopy imaging and cell surface biotinylation. Further imaging showed that NR1-1a (D732A) and co-transfected NR2A co-localized with an endoplasmic reticulum marker. Dichlorokynurenic acid, a competitive glycine site antagonist, partially rescued surface expression. Mutation of the NR1-1a ER retention motif showed that the ligand binding checkpoint is an early event preceding endoplasmic reticulum sorting mechanisms. These findings demonstrate that integrity of the glycine co-agonist binding site is a functional checkpoint requisite for efficient cell surface trafficking of assembled NMDA receptors.