Scientific reports

Stress hormone rapidly tunes synaptic NMDA receptor through membrane dynamics and mineralocorticoid signalling.

PMID 28808323


Stress hormones, such as corticosteroids, modulate the transmission of hippocampal glutamatergic synapses and NMDA receptor (NMDAR)-dependent synaptic plasticity, favouring salient behavioural responses to the environment. The corticosterone-induced synaptic adaptations partly rely on changes in NMDAR signalling, although the cellular pathway underlying this effect remains elusive. Here, we demonstrate, using single molecule imaging and electrophysiological approaches in hippocampal neurons, that corticosterone specifically controls GluN2B-NMDAR surface dynamics and synaptic content through mineralocorticoid signalling. Strikingly, extracellular corticosterone was sufficient to increase the trapping of GluN2B-NMDAR within synapses. Functionally, corticosterone-induced potentiation of AMPA receptor content in synapses required the changes in NMDAR surface dynamics. These high-resolution imaging data unveiled that, in hippocampal networks, corticosterone is a natural, potent, fast and specific regulator of GluN2B-NMDAR membrane trafficking, tuning NMDAR-dependent synaptic adaptations.