Developmental regulation of N-methyl-D-aspartate- and kainate-type glutamate receptor expression in the rat spinal cord

S. L. Stegenga, R. G. Kalb

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

64 Scopus citations


Spinal motor neurons undergo experience-dependent development during a critical period in early postnatal life. It has been suggested that the repertoire of glutamate receptor subunits differs between young and mature motor neurons and contributes to this activity-dependent development. In the present study we examined the expression patterns of N-methyl-D-aspartate- and kainate-type glutamate receptor subunits during the postnatal maturation of the spinal cord. Young motor neurons express much higher levels of the N-methyl-D-aspartate receptor subunit NR1 than do adult motor neurons. Although there are eight potential splice variants of NR1, only a subgroup is expressed by motor neurons. With respect to NR2 receptor subunits, young motor neurons express NR2A and C, while adult motor neurons express only NR2A. Young motor neurons express kainate receptor subunits GluR5, 6 and KA2 but we are unable to detect these or any other kainate receptor subunits in the adult spinal cord. Other spinal cord regions display a distinct pattern of developmental regulation of N-methyl-D-aspartate and kainate receptor subunit expression in comparison to motor neurons. Our findings indicate a precise spatio-temporal regulation of individual subunit expression in the developing spinal cord. Specific combinations of subunits in developing neurons influence their excitable properties and could participate in the emergence of adult neuronal form and function.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)499-507
Number of pages9
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jul 27 2001


  • In situ hybridization
  • MRNA
  • Motor neuron
  • Splice variants

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience(all)


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