Journal of neuroscience research

Synthetic conantokin peptides potently inhibit N-methyl-D-aspartate receptor-mediated currents of retinal ganglion cells.

PMID 25043917


Retinal ganglion cells (RGCs), which are the sole output neurons of the retina, express N-methyl-D-aspartate receptors (NMDARs), rendering these cells susceptible to glutamate excitotoxicity, with implications for loss of normal RGC excitatory responses in disorders such as glaucoma and diabetic retinopathy. Therefore, antagonists that inhibit NMDAR-mediated currents specifically by targeting the GluN2B component of the ion channel have the potential to serve as a basis for developing potential therapeutics. The roles of peptidic conantokins, which are potent brain neuronal NMDAR inhibitors, were studied. By using patch-clamp whole-cell analyses in dissociated RGCs and retinal whole-mount RGCs, we evaluated the effects of synthetic conantokin-G (conG) and conantokin-T (conT), which are small γ-carboxyglutamate-containing peptides, on NMDA-mediated excitatory responses in mouse RGCs. Both conG and conT inhibited the NMDA-mediated currents of dark-adapted dissociated and whole-mount RGCs in a dose-dependent, reversible, noncompetitive manner. Inhibition of NMDA-mediated steady-state currents by NMDAR nonsubunit-selective conT was approximately threefold greater than GluN2B-selective conG or ifenprodil, demonstrating its potential ability to inhibit both GluN2A- and GluN2B-containing ion channels in RGCs. Because the extent of inhibition of NMDA-evoked currents by conG and the pharmacologic GluN2B-selective inhibitor ifenprodil were similar (40-45%) to that of the GluN2A-selective antagonist NVP-AAM0077, we conclude that the levels of GluN2A and GluN2B subunits are similar in RGCs. These results provide a novel basis for developing effective neuroprotective agents to aid in the prevention of undesired glutamatergic excitotoxicity in neurodegenerative diseases of the retina and demonstrate functional assembly of NMDARs in RGCs.

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