The European Journal of Neuroscience vol:14 issue:2 pages:305-14
Activation of Ca(2+)-permeable alpha-amino-3-hydroxy-5-methyl-4-isoxazole propionic acid (AMPA) receptors has been linked to potent effects on survival and dendritic outgrowth of spinal motoneurons. Ca(2+) permeability of AMPA receptors is controlled by the GluR2 subunit. Whole-cell electrophysiological studies have suggested that GluR2-containing and GluR2-lacking AMPA receptors may coexist in individual motoneurons. However, there has not been a direct demonstration of heterogeneity in AMPA receptor subunit composition in single motoneurons, nor of distinct subcellular distributions of GluR2-containing and GluR2-lacking receptors. In the present study, we have used confocal microscopy, immunocytochemistry and Ca(2+) imaging to characterize the subcellular localization of AMPA receptors in cultured rat spinal motoneurons. Immunoreactivity for GluR2 and GluR4 was concentrated in clusters, the vast majority of which were found in dendrites at synapses. Double-labelling for GluR2 and GluR4 revealed variability in relative expression of GluR2 and GluR4 between clusters within individual motoneurons; most AMPA receptor clusters were immunoreactive for both GluR2 and GluR4, but a significant minority of clusters were immunoreactive for GluR2 only or for GluR4 only. The majority of GluR2-immunonegative AMPA receptor clusters was present in dendrites, but the relative proportion of GluR2-immunonegative and GluR2-immunopositive clusters was similar in dendrites and soma. Imaging of [Ca(2+)](i) rises triggered by AMPA receptor activation confirmed Ca(2+) influx in motoneuron dendrites. These findings strongly support a model in which GluR2-containing and GluR2-lacking AMPA receptors coexist in motoneurons, clustered at synapses, and mixed in a relative proportion that varies considerably between cell membrane microdomains.