PORTLAND, Ore. For several years, the pharmaceutical industry has tried to develop drugs that target a specific neurotransmitter receptor in the brain, the NMDA receptor. This receptor is present on almost every neuron in the human brain and is involved in learning and memory. NMDA receptors also have been implicated in several neurological and psychiatric conditions such as Alzheimer's disease, Parkinson's disease, schizophrenia and depression.
But drug companies have had little success developing clinically effective drugs that target this receptor.
Now, researchers at Oregon Health & Science University's Vollum Institute believe they may understand why. And what they've discovered may help in the development of new therapies for these conditions.
In a paper published in the current issue of the Journal of Neuroscience, OHSU scientists describe their work on NMDA receptors. There are various types of NMDA receptors, resulting from differences in the protein components that make up the receptor. These differences in the protein components produce receptors with varying properties.
As drug companies have worked to develop compounds that manipulate the activity of these receptors, the focus of much of this drug discovery effort has been on a specific NMDA receptor subtype. In their Journal of Neuroscience paper, the OHSU scientists describe their discovery that the specific receptor subtype that drug companies have seen as a target is an almost nonexistent contributor of NMDA receptor action.
What does exist, the OHSU scientists found, was a different kind of NMDA receptor subtype one containing two specific protein components, called GluN2A and GluN2B. NMDA receptors containing these two components were not thought to be very common. The OHSU study found that not only was this NMDA receptor subtype more common than previously believed, it was the most common subtype at synapses. And it was far more common t
|Contact: Todd Murphy|
Oregon Health & Science University