Neuronal and glial localization of NR1 and NR2A/B subunits of the NMDA receptor in the human cerebral cortex

Fiorenzo Conti, Paolo Barbaresi, Marcello Melone, Alessandro Ducati

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


N-MethyI-D-aspartate (NMDA) receptors play a critical role in many cortical functions and are implicated in several neuropsychiatric diseases. In this study, the cellular expression of the NMDAR1 (NR1) and NMDAR2A and B (NR2A and B) subunits was investigated in the human cerebral cortex by immunocytochemistry with antibodies that recognize the NR1 or the NR2A and B subunits of the NMDA receptor. In frontal (areas 10 and 46) and temporal (area 21) association cortices and the cingulofrontal transition cortex (area 32), NR1 and NR2A/B immunoreactivity (ir) were similar and were localized to numerous neurons in all cortical layers. NR1- and NR2A/B-positive neurons were mostly pyramidal cells, but some nonpyramidal neurons were also labeled. Electron-microscopic observations showed that NR1 and NR2A/B ir were similar. In all cases, labeling of dendrites and dendritic spines was intense. In addition, both NR1 and NR2A/B were consistently found in the axoplasm of some axon terminals and in distal astrocytic processes. This investigation revealed that numerous NMDA receptors are localized to dendritic spines, and that they are also localized to axon terminals and astrocytic processes. These findings suggest that the effects of cortical NMDA activation in the human cortex do not depend exclusively on the opening of NMDA channels located at postsynaptic sites, and that the localization of NMDA receptors is similar in a variety of mammalian species.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)110-120
Number of pages11
JournalCerebral Cortex
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 1999

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience(all)


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