Glycine modulates ethanol inhibition of heteromeric N-methyl-D-aspartate receptors expressed in Xenopus oocytes

A. L. Buller, H. C. Larson, R. A. Morrisett, D. T. Monaghan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Scopus citations


Ethanol inhibits N-methyl-D-aspartate (NMDA) receptor-mediated responses at pharmacologically relevant concentrations, suggesting that inhibition of NMDA receptors may underlie some of the actions of ethanol in the central nervous system. We examined the ability of glycine to modulate ethanol inhibition of four recombinant heteromeric NMDA receptors (NR1a/NR2A through NR2D) expressed in Xenopus oocytes. Ethanol dose-response analysis revealed enhanced inhibitory efficacy of ethanol in the presence of subsaturating glycine concentrations at the NR1/NR2A, NR1/NR2C, and NR1/NR2D receptors. When assayed over a range of glycine concentrations, ethanol exhibited both glycine-reversible and glycine-independent inhibition of NMDA receptors. In contrast, ethanol inhibition of recombinant NMDA receptors was independent of NMDA concentration. Glycine reversal of ethaol inhibition suggested that ethanol might lower the affinity of glycine for the NMDA receptor and thereby decrease response magnitude. Consistent with this hypothesis, ethanol significantly reduced glycine affinity at NR1/NR2A and NR1/NR2C receptors. Evaluation of the glycine-independent component of ethanol inhibition demonstrated that in the presence of saturating concentrations of glycine, the NR1/NR2A and NR1/NR2B receptors were more sensitive to ethanol than the NR1/NR2C and NR1/NR2D receptors. Activation of the NR1/NR2D heteromers by NMDA and low concentrations of glycine elicited responses characterized by an initial peak followed by a lower-amplitude plateau response, which is consistent with glycine-sensitive desensitization as previously described for native NMDA receptors. In addition, nondesensitizing NR1/NR2B responses elicited in the presence of subsaturating concentrations of glycine were frequently converted into desensitizing responses by the addition of ethanol, an effect that was reversed with increasing glycine concentrations. The ability of ethanol to promote glycine-sensitive desensitization further suggests an interaction between glycine and ethanol inhibition of the NMDA receptor. Taken together, the results of the present report demonstrate that ethanol inhibition of NMDA receptors has both glycine-reversible and glycine- independent components, suggesting two distinct molecular mechanisms for ethanol inhibition of NMDA receptors.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)717-723
Number of pages7
JournalMolecular pharmacology
Issue number4
StatePublished - 1995

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Molecular Medicine
  • Pharmacology


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