GluN2A and GluN2B subunit-containing NMDA receptors in hippocampal plasticity.


N-Methyl-d-aspartate receptor (NMDAR)-dependent synaptic plasticity is a strong candidate to mediate learning and memory processes that require the hippocampus. This plasticity is bidirectional, and how the same receptor can mediate opposite changes in synaptic weights remains a conundrum. It has been suggested that the NMDAR subunit composition could be involved. Specifically, one subunit composition of NMDARs would be responsible for the induction of long-term potentiation (LTP), whereas NMDARs with a different subunit composition would be engaged in the induction of long-term depression (LTD). Unfortunately, the results from studies that have investigated this hypothesis are contradictory, particularly in relation to LTD. Nevertheless, current evidence does suggest that the GluN2B subunit might be particularly important for plasticity and may make a synapse bidirectionally malleable. In particular, we conclude that the presence of GluN2B subunit-containing NMDARs at the postsynaptic density might be a necessary, though not a sufficient, condition for the strengthening of individual synapses. This is owing to the interaction of GluN2B with calcium/calmodulin-dependent protein kinase II (CaMKII) and is distinct from its contribution as an ion channel.