Structure and symmetry inform gating principles of ionotropic glutamate receptors

Shujia Zhu, Eric Gouaux

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

59 Scopus citations


Ionotropic glutamate receptors (iGluRs) transduce signals derived from release of the excitatory neurotransmitter glutamate from pre-synaptic neurons into excitation of post-synaptic neurons on a millisecond time-scale. In recent years, the elucidation of full-length iGluR structures of NMDA, AMPA and kainate receptors by X-ray crystallography and single particle cryo-electron microscopy has greatly enhanced our understanding of the interrelationships between receptor architecture and gating mechanism. Here we briefly review full-length iGluR structures and discuss the similarities and differences between NMDA receptors and non-NMDA iGluRs. We focus on distinct conformations, including ligand-free, agonist-bound active, agonist-bound desensitized and antagonist-bound conformations as well as modulator and auxiliary protein-bound states. These findings provide insights into structure-based mechanisms of iGluR gating and modulation which together shape the amplitude and time course of the excitatory postsynaptic potential. This article is part of the Special Issue entitled ‘Ionotropic glutamate receptors’.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)11-15
Number of pages5
StatePublished - Jan 1 2017

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pharmacology
  • Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience


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