The δ2 glutamate receptor (GluRδ2; GluD2), which is predominantly expressed on postsynaptic sites at parallel fiber (PF)-Purkinje cell synapses in the cerebellum, plays two crucial roles in the cerebellum: the formation of PF synapses and the regulation of long-term depression (LTD), a form of synaptic plasticity underlying motor learning. Although the induction of LTD and motor learning absolutely require signaling via the cytoplasmic C-terminal domain of GluD2, the mechanisms by which GluD2 regulates PF synaptogenesis have remained unclear. Here, we examined the role of the extracellular N-terminal domain (NTD) of GluD2 on PF synaptogenesis by injecting Sindbis virus carrying wild-type (GluD2wt) or mutant GluD2 into the subarachnoid supracerebellar space of GluD2-null mice. Remarkably, the expression of GluD2wt, but not of a mutant GluD2 lacking the NTD (GluD2ΔNTD), rapidly induced PF synapse formation and rescued gross motor dyscoordination in adult GluD2-null mice just 1 d after injection. In addition, although the kainate receptor GluR6 (GluK2) did not induce PF synaptogenesis, a chimeric GluK2 that contained the NTD of GluD2 (GluD2 NTD-GluK2) did. Similarly, GluD2wt and GluD2 NTD-GluK2, but not GluD2ΔNTD, induced synaptogenesis in heterologous cells in vitro. In contrast, LTD was restored in GluD2-null Purkinje cells expressing a mutant GluD2 lacking the NTD. These results indicate that the NTD of GluD2 is necessary and sufficient for the function of GluD2 in the regulation of PF-Purkinje cell synaptogenesis. Furthermore, our results suggest that GluD2 differently regulates PF synaptogenesis and cerebellar LTD through the extracellular NTD and the cytoplasmic C-terminal end, respectively.
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