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This protocol describes how to image the trafficking of glutamate receptors around excitatory postsynaptic membrane formed on an adhesion protein-coated glass surface. The protocol was developed to clarify how receptors move during the induction of synaptic plasticity. Dissociated neurons are cultured on a coverslip coated with neurexin, which induces the formation of postsynaptic membrane-like structures on the glass surface. A glutamate receptor tagged with a fluorescent protein is then transfected into neurons, and it is observed with total internal reflection fluorescence microscopy. The whole process takes about 3 weeks. Changes in the amount of cell-surface receptors caused by neuronal activities can be quantified, and individual exocytosis events of receptors can be clearly observed around the pseudo-postsynaptic membrane. This protocol has potential applications for studies of movements of membrane proteins around other specialized regions of the cell membrane, such as the inhibitory postsynaptic membrane, the presynaptic membrane or the immunological synapses.


Hiromitsu Tanaka, Shumpei Fujii, Tomoo Hirano. Live-cell imaging of receptors around postsynaptic membranes. Nature protocols. 2014 Jan;9(1):76-89

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PMID: 24336472

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