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Neocortical circuits are established through the formation of synapses between cortical neurons, but the molecular mechanisms of synapse formation are only beginning to be understood. The mechanisms that control synaptic vesicle (SV) and active zone (AZ) protein assembly at developing presynaptic terminals have not yet been defined. Similarly, the role of glutamate receptor activation in control of presynaptic development remains unclear. Here, we use confocal imaging to demonstrate that NMDA receptor (NMDAR) activation regulates accumulation of multiple SV and AZ proteins at nascent presynaptic terminals of visual cortical neurons. NMDAR-dependent regulation of presynaptic assembly occurs even at synapses that lack postsynaptic NMDARs. We also provide evidence that this control of presynaptic terminal development is independent of glia. Based on these data, we propose a novel NMDAR-dependent mechanism for control of presynaptic terminal development in excitatory neocortical neurons. Control of presynaptic development by NMDARs could ultimately contribute to activity-dependent development of cortical receptive fields.


Michael P Sceniak, Corbett T Berry, Shasta L Sabo. Facilitation of neocortical presynaptic terminal development by NMDA receptor activation. Neural development. 2012;7:8

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PMID: 22340949

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