An important mechanism for the regulation of excitatory synaptic transmission in the hippocampus involves tight control of AMPAR [AMPA (α-amino-3-hydroxy-5-methylisoxazole-4-propionic acid) receptor] trafficking to alter the number or subtype of synaptic receptors. This is achieved via the multiple stages of the endosomal system. AMPARs constitutively cycle through early endosomes and recycling endosomes to maintain synaptic receptor numbers. However, on induction of synaptic plasticity, subtle alterations are made to this cycle by the action of specific AMPAR-interacting proteins and also via a number of additional proteins that regulate endosomal sorting more generally. During long-term depression, receptors are diverted to late endosomes and lysosomes rather than recycling back to the plasma membrane, hence reducing the number of receptors at the synapse. The increased number of synaptic AMPARs after induction of LTP (long-term potentiation) originates from the recycling compartment. In addition, transient changes in subunit composition may arise as a result of retention of AMPAR subtypes within the endosome during LTP. Aberrant trafficking after pathological insults such as oxygen/glucose deprivation or mechanical trauma also involves alterations in synaptic AMPAR subunit composition, leading to calcium influx that ultimately results in cell death.

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