Purdue University Graduate School
Salek Dissertation_Final_December2020.pdf (7.09 MB)

Spinophilin-dependent regulation of the phosphorylation, protein interactions, and function of the GluN2B subunit of the NMDAR and its implications in neuronal cell death

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posted on 2021-01-07, 15:06 authored by Asma Beiraghi SalekAsma Beiraghi Salek
Excitotoxicity, a major hallmark of neurodegeneration associated with cerebral ischemia, is a result of accumulation of extracellular glutamate. This excess glutamate leads to hyperactivation of glutamate receptors such as the N-methyl-D-asparate (NMDA) receptors (NMDARs) following the activation of α-amino-3-hydroxy-5-methyl-4-isoxazolepropionic acid (AMPA) receptor (AMPARs). Excessive activation of NMDARs causes an influx of calcium, which can eventually activate apoptotic pathways and lead to death of neurons. Regulation of NMDAR subunit composition, localization, surface expression, and activity can balance cell survival via activation of either pro-death or pro-survival pathways after a course of an ischemic insult. Specifically, phosphorylation of different NMDAR subunits defines their activity and downstream signaling pathways. NMDARs are phosphorylated by multiple kinases and dephosphorylated by different phosphatases. Besides phosphatases and kinases, per se, phosphorylation of synaptic proteins that regulate kinase or phosphatase targeting and activity also mediate NMDAR phosphorylation. Spinophilin, a major synaptic scaffolding and protein phosphatase 1 (PP1) targeting protein, mediates substrate phosphorylation via its ability to bind PP1. Our studies focus on delineating the role of spinophilin in the regulation of phosphorylation and function of the GluN2B subunit of the NMDA receptor as well as the role of spinophilin in modulating glutamate-induced neurotoxicity. Interestingly, our data demonstrate that spinophilin sequesters PP1 away from GluN2B thereby enhancing phosphorylation of GluN2B at Ser-1284. These changes impact GluN2B protein interactions, subcellular localization, and surface expression, leading to alterations in the amount of calcium entering the neuron via GluN2B-containing NMDARs. Our data show that spinophilin biphasically regulates GluN2B function. Specifically, Ser-1284 phosphorylation enhances calcium influx through GluN2B containing NMDA receptors, but spinophilin leads to dramatic decreases in the surface expression of the receptor independent of Ser-1284 phosphorylation. Moreover, in spinophilin knockout mice, we observe less PP1 binding to GluN2B and less phosphorylation of Ser-1284, but more surface expression of GluN2B and greater levels of caspase activity. Together, these observations suggest a potential neuroprotective role for spinophilin by decreasing GluN2B-containing NMDA receptor-dependent surface expression and thereby decreasing intracellular calcium and neuronal cell death.


Eli Lilly/Stark Neurosciences Pre-doctoral fellowship in Neurodegeneration

Spinophilin Signaling in the Striatum

National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke

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Degree Type

  • Doctor of Philosophy


  • Biological Sciences

Campus location

  • Indianapolis

Advisor/Supervisor/Committee Chair

Dr. A.J. Baucum

Additional Committee Member 2

Dr. Ted Cummins

Additional Committee Member 3

Dr. Andy Hudmon

Additional Committee Member 4

Dr. Nicolas Berbari

Additional Committee Member 5

Dr. Yvonne Lai

Additional Committee Member 6

Dr. Jason Meyer