Long-term potentiation (LTP) and long-term depression (LTD) of excitatory neurotransmission are believed to be the neuronal basis of learning and memory. Both processes are primarily mediated by neuronal activity–induced transport of postsynaptic AMPA-type glutamate receptors (AMPARs). While AMPAR subunits and their specific phosphorylation sites mediate differential AMPAR trafficking, LTP and LTD could also occur in a subunit-independent manner. Thus, it remains unclear whether and how certain AMPAR subunits with phosphorylation sites are preferentially recruited to or removed from synapses during LTP and LTD. Using immunoblot and immunocytochemical analysis, we show that phosphomimetic mutations of the membrane-proximal region (MPR) in GluA1 AMPAR subunits affect the subunit-dependent endosomal transport of AMPARs during chemical LTD. AP-2 and AP-3, adaptor protein complexes necessary for clathrin-mediated endocytosis and late endosomal/lysosomal trafficking, respectively, are reported to be recruited to AMPARs by binding to the AMPAR auxiliary subunit, stargazin (STG), in an AMPAR subunit–independent manner. However, the association of AP-3, but not AP-2, with STG was indirectly inhibited by the phosphomimetic mutation in the MPR of GluA1. Thus, although AMPARs containing the phosphomimetic mutation at the MPR of GluA1 were endocytosed by a chemical LTD-inducing stimulus, they were quickly recycled back to the cell surface in hippocampal neurons. These results could explain how the phosphorylation status of GluA1-MPR plays a dominant role in subunit-independent STG-mediated AMPAR trafficking during LTD.
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