NMDA-type glutamate receptors (NMDARs) are ligand-gated ion channels that mediate excitatory neurotransmission in the CNS. Here we describe functional and single-channel properties of triheteromeric GluN1/GluN2A/GluN2C receptors, which contain two GluN1, one GluN2A, and one GluN2C subunits. This NMDAR has three conductance levels and opens in bursts similar to GluN1/GluN2A receptors but with a single-channel open time and open probability reminiscent of GluN1/GluN2C receptors. The deactivation time course of GluN1/GluN2A/GluN2C receptors is intermediate to GluN1/GluN2A and GluN1/GluN2C receptors and is not dominated by GluN2A or GluN2C. We show that triheteromeric GluN1/GluN2A/GluN2C receptors are the predominant NMDARs in cerebellar granule cells and propose that co-expression of GluN2A and GluN2C in cerebellar granule cells occludes cell surface expression of diheteromeric GluN1/GluN2C receptors. This new insight into neuronal GluN1/GluN2A/GluN2C receptors highlights the complexity of NMDAR signaling in the CNS. Bhattacharya et al. show that the NMDA receptor GluN2C subunit is preferentially incorporated into triheteromeric GluN1/GluN2A/GluN2C receptors in cerebellar granule cells. Triheteromeric GluN1/GluN2A/GluN2C receptors have single-channel properties that cannot be predicted from the composite subunits.
- cerebellar granule cells
- excitatory neurotransmission
- ionotropic glutamate receptors
- ligand-gated ion channel