A rare variant identified within the GluN2B C-terminus in a patient with autism affects NMDA receptor surface expression and spine density

Shuxi Liu, Liang Zhou, Hongjie Yuan, Marta Vieira, Antonio Sanz-Clemente, John D. Badger, Wei Lu, Stephen F. Traynelis, Katherine W. Roche*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

24 Scopus citations


NMDA receptors (NMDARs) are ionotropic glutamate receptors that are crucial for neuronal development and higher cognitive processes. NMDAR dysfunction is involved in a variety of neurological and psychiatric diseases; however, the mechanistic link between the human pathology and NMDAR dysfunction is poorly understood. Rare missense variants within NMDAR subunits have been identified in numerous patients with mental or neurological disorders. We specifically focused on the GluN2B NMDAR subunit, which is highly expressed in the hippocampus and cortex throughout development. We analyzed several variants located in the GluN2B C terminus and found that three variants in patients with autism (S1415L) or schizophrenia (L1424F and S1452F) (S1413L, L1422F, and S1450F in rodents, respectively) displayed impaired binding to membrane-associated guanylate kinase (MAGUK) proteins. In addition, we observed a deficit in surface expression for GluN2B S1413L. Furthermore, there were fewer dendritic spines in GluN2B S1413L-expressing neurons. Importantly, synaptic NMDAR currents in neurons transfected with GluN2B S1413L in GluN2A/B-deficient mouse brain slices revealed only partial rescue of synaptic current amplitude. Functional properties of GluN2B S1413L in recombinant systems revealed no change in receptor properties, consistent with synaptic defects being the result of reduced trafficking and targeting of GluN2B S1413L to the synapse. Therefore, we find that GluN2B S1413L displays deficits in NMDAR trafficking, synaptic currents, and spine density, raising the possibility that this mutationmaycontribute to the phenotype in this autism patient.Morebroadly, our research demonstrates that the targeted study of certain residues in NMDARs based on rare variants identified in patients is a powerful approach to studying receptor function.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)4093-4102
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Neuroscience
Issue number15
StatePublished - Apr 12 2017


  • Dendritic morphology
  • Human diseases
  • MAGUK binding
  • NMDA receptor
  • Surface expression
  • Synaptic function

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience(all)

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