The distribution of glutamate receptor subtypes on the surface of neurons is highly relevant for synaptic activation and signal processing in the neocortex. As a novel approach we have used infra-red videomicroscopy in combination with photostimulation or microiontophoresis in brain slices of rat neocortex to map the distribution of N-methyl-D-aspartate (NMDA) and alpha-amino-3-hydroxy-5-methyl-4-isoxazolepropionic acid (AMPA) receptors on pyramidal neurons of layer V. Both modes of application revealed a spatially distinct distribution of glutamate receptor subtypes: the soma and the proximal dendrite of neurons are highly sensitive to NMDA, whereas the more distal parts of the dendrite are more sensitive to AMPA. An implication is that NMDA receptors near the soma might regulate the amplification of synaptic signals resulting from AMPA receptor activation on remote dendritic sites.
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