The N-methyl-D-aspartate (NMDA) receptor-mediated glutamatergic neurotransmission is involved in synaptic plasticity, developmental processes, learning and memory and many neuropathological disorders including age-related diseases. In the present study, regulation of the NMDA receptor properties by various ligands was investigated using $[^3H]MK-801$ binding studies in the synaptic membranes of young and aged rat forebrains. The binding in the presence of glutamate and glycine increased dramatically with growth between 1 and 6 weeks old, and thereafter declined gradually with aging. Glutamate, glycine or spermine respectively increased the binding with growth. Glutamate maintained the binding during aging, while glycine or spermine significantly decreased the binding in the aged brain. The maximum stimulation by glycine varied depending on the ages of brains. Greater sensitivity to glycine was observed at 1 week and 3 months and the sensitivity was significantly reduced in the aged brain. In contrast, spermine showed similar stimulation patterns in young and aged rats. These results indicated that the functional properties of the NMDA receptor-ion channel complex in young and aged rat forebrains are differentially regulated by agonists, and the reduction of the receptor function with normal aging may be, in some degree, due to the reduction of the receptor sensitivity to glycine.
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