Protein kinase C (PKC) positively modulates NMDA receptor (NMDAR) currents. In contrast to previous reports, this study determines the importance of individual exons in the mechanism underlying the potentiation process by examining the complete set of eight naturally occurring splice variants expressed in Xenopus oocytes both as homomers and as heteromeric NR1/NR2A or NR1/NR2B complexes. After PKC stimulation, homomeric currents demonstrated a high level of potentiation (~500% of untreated baseline currents) that reduced to a lower level (~300% of baseline) in variants containing the first C-terminal exon (C1). An ANOVA showed that only C1 and no other exon or interaction of exons determined the degree of NMDAR current modulation by PKC. When recordings were performed in solutions in which barium replaces calcium, only the lower form of potentiation was observed, regardless of the splice variant exon composition. This suggested an important role for calcium in the PKC modulation of homomeric NMDA splice variant currents in which the C1 exon also participates. The effectiveness of the C1 exon to reduce the higher form of potentiation is modulated by heteromeric assemblies with NR2A heteromers yielding smaller levels of potentiation and a larger C1 exon effect compared with NR2B heteromers. The heteromers demonstrated the higher form of potentiation even in the absence of calcium. Furthermore calcium had different effects in the potentiation of the heteromers depending on the NR2 subunit. This study refines the region of the NR1 subunit involved in a modulation crucial to the function of NMDA receptors and provides evidence that the NR2A and NR2B subunits realize this modulation differentially.
Logan, S. M., Rivera, F. E., & Leonard, J. P. (1999). Protein kinase C modulation of recombinant NMDA receptor currents: Roles for the C-terminal C1 exon and calcium ions. Journal of Neuroscience, 19(3), 974–986. https://doi.org/10.1523/jneurosci.19-03-00974.1999