The development of excitatory synapses in cultured spinal neurons

Richard J. O'Brien, Andrew L. Mammen, Seth Blackshaw, Michael D. Ehlers, Jeffrey D. Rothstein, Richard L. Huganir

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

89 Scopus citations


Immunohistochemical studies of synapses in the CNS have demonstrated that glutamate receptors (GluRs) are concentrated at postsynaptic sites in vivo and in vitro (Beude et al., 1995). The mechanisms leading to receptor clustering at excitatory synapses are far less understood than those governing acetylcholine receptor accumulation at the neoromuscular junction (Hall and Sanes, 1993) or glycine receptor aggregation at central inhibitory synapses (Kirsch et al., 1993). Using cultured rat spinal cord neurons, we demonstrate that clustering of the AMPA receptor subunit GluR1 is among the earliest events in excitatory synapse formation in vitro, coincident with the onset of miniature EPSCs and in many cases preceding pre synaptic vesicle accumulation. Postsynaptic receptor clustering is induced in a highly specific and reiterative pattern, independent of receptor activation, by contact with a subset of axons capable of inducing receptor clusters. The subunit composition of AMPA receptor clusters varied significantly between neurons but was invariant within a given neuron. The presence of either GluR2 or GluR3 was common to all receptor clusters. Neither high-affinity glutamate transporters nor NMDA receptors appeared to be concentrated with AMPA receptor subunits at these excitatory synapses.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)7339-7350
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Neuroscience
Issue number19
StatePublished - 1997


  • GluR1
  • Glutamate receptors
  • Glutamate transporter
  • Rat
  • Spinal cord
  • Synaptogenesis
  • Tissue culture

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience(all)


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