N-Methyl-D-aspartate receptors are transiently expressed in the developing spinal cord ventral horn

Robert G. Kalb*, Michael S. Lidow, Mark J. Halsted, Susan Hockfiel

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

150 Scopus citations


Quantitative receptor autoradiography was used to map the distribution of N-methyl-D-aspartate (NMDA) receptors in the developing rat spinal cord. Three different specific ligands, which label partially overlapping subpopulations of NMDA receptors, were used: an agonist (L-[3H]glutamate), a noncompetitive antagonist ([3H]MK-801), and a competitive antagonist ([3H]CGP-39653). In the adult, NMDA receptors labeled with all three ligands are restricted to the substantia gelatinosa in the spinal dorsal horn. In marked distinction, at postnatal day 7 NMDA receptors labeled with L-[3H]glutamate and [3H]MK-801 are present throughout the spinal gray matter. NMDA receptors in the neonatal spinal ventral horn have a higher affinity for L-[3H]glutamate than those in the adult substantia gelatinosa. Over the second and third postnatal weeks, NMDA receptors are lost from all areas of the spinal gray matter except for the substantia gelatinosa. Neonatal NMDA receptors identified with [3H]CGP-39653 are restricted to the substantia gelatinosa. These results show that the immature ventral horn contains a subpopulation of NMDA receptors and raise the possibility that motor neurons transiently express NMDA receptors in early postnatal life. Ventral horn NMDA receptors may be a component of the mechanisms by which the mature phenotype of motor neurons is acquired through activity-dependent processes. The loss of NMDA receptors over the course of development may play a role in limiting the period of motor neuron plasticity.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)8502-8506
Number of pages5
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Issue number18
StatePublished - 1992

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General


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