A specific set of molecules including glutamate receptors is targeted to the postsynaptic specialization of excitatory synapses in the brain, gathering in a structure known as the postsynaptic density (PSD). Synaptic targeting of glutamate receptors depends on interactions between the C-terminal tails of receptor subunits and specific PDZ domain-containing scaffold proteins in the PSD. These scaffold proteins assemble a specialized protein complex around each class of glutamate receptor that functions in signal transduction, cytoskeletal anchoring, and trafficking of the receptors. Among the glutamate receptor subtypes, the N-methyl-d-aspartate receptor is relatively stably integrated in the PSD, whereas the alpha-amino-3-hydroxy-5-methyl-4-isoxazolepropionic acid receptor moves in and out of the postsynaptic membrane in highly dynamic fashion. The distinctive cell biological behaviors of N-methyl-d-aspartate and alpha-amino-3-hydroxy-5-methyl-4-isoxazolepropionic acid receptors can be explained by their differential interactions with cytoplasmic proteins.
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