Functional NMDA receptors are transiently active and support the survival of Purkinje cells in culture

Michisuke Yuzaki, Douglas Forrest, Lynne M. Verselis, Shaiu C. Sun, Tom Curran, John A. Connor

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50 Citations (Scopus)


Conflicting evidence exists concerning the activity of NMDA receptors (NMDARs) in cerebellar Purkinje cells and their possible functions. To investigate the activity of NMDARs, we used whole-cell recording on immunocytochemically identified Purkinje cells in primary culture. In addition, we used mice with a disrupted NMDAR1 gene that lack functional NMDARs (NR1-/-) to assess the physiological role of NMDARs. In cultures from normal mice, NMDA-mediated currents were detected in all identified Purkinje cells at 4 d in vitro (div). After 14 d, however, NMDA responses were reduced in amplitude, whereas the responses to kainate and glutamate increased steadily in amplitude. In addition, the NMDA-induced current displayed a pronounced desensitization at these later stages; peak current declined to zero during steady application of NMDA. At 7 div, the number of surviving Purkinje cells was less in cultures treated with NMDA antagonists, and their survival was dose-dependent. Purkinje cell survival was correspondingly poorer in cultures from the NR1-/- mice than in wild-type controls, suggesting that NMDAR activity enhances the survival of Purkinje cells in vitro. The addition of moderate doses of NMDA promoted the survival of wild- type Purkinje cells in the presence of tetrodotoxin. Feeder layers of cerebellar granule cells derived from wild-type or NR1-/- mice promoted survival of Purkinje cells to a similar degree, suggesting that the NMDAR in Purkinje cells, but not in other cells, is directly involved in Purkinje cell viability. The results demonstrate that NMDARs transiently produce membrane current in Purkinje cells and may serve as one of the epigenetic factors that support the survival of Purkinje cells in vitro.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)4651-4661
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Neuroscience
Issue number15
Publication statusPublished - 1996 Aug 1
Externally publishedYes


  • NMDA receptors
  • Purkinje cells
  • cerebellum
  • dissociated cell culture
  • excitatory amino acids
  • patch clamp

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience(all)


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