Abstract and Keywords
α-Amino-3-hydroxy-5-methyl-4-isoxazolepropionic acid (AMPA) and kainate-type glutamate receptors (AMPARs and KARs) are dynamic ion channel proteins that govern neuronal excitation and signal transduction in the mammalian brain. The four AMPAR and five KAR subunits can heteromerize with other subfamily members to create several combinations of tetrameric channels with unique physiological and pharmacological properties. While both receptor classes are noted for their rapid, millisecond-scale channel gating in response to agonist binding, the intricate structural rearrangements underlying their function have only recently been elucidated. This chapter begins with a review of AMPAR and KAR nomenclature, topology, and rules of assembly. Subsequently, receptor gating properties are outlined for both single-channel and synaptic contexts. The structural biology of AMPAR and KAR proteins is also discussed at length, with particular focus on the ligand-binding domain, where allosteric regulation and alternative splicing work together to dictate gating behavior. Toward the end of the chapter there is an overview of several classes of auxiliary subunits, notably transmembrane AMPAR regulatory proteins and Neto proteins, which enhance native AMPAR and KAR expression and channel gating, respectively. Whether bringing an ion channel novice up to speed with glutamate receptor theory and terminology or providing a refresher for more seasoned biophysicists, there is much to appreciate in this summation of work from the glutamate receptor field.
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