N-methyl-D-aspartate receptor (NMDAR) forms a heterodimer of at least one NR1 and one NR2A-D subunit. Multiple receptor isoforms with distinct brain distributions and functional properties arise by selective splicing of the NR1 transcripts and differential expression of the NR2 subunits. NR1 subunits bind the co-agonist glycine and NR2 subunits bind the neurotransmitter glutamate.
NMDA receptors are among the most studied receptors in neuroscience because they are involved in neuronal cell development and plasticity, a cellular correlate for learning. NMDA receptors are also implicated in several disorders of the central nervous system including epilepsy and ischemic neuronal cell death. NMDA receptors also appear to be a target for ethanol at physiological concentrations and therefore may play a significant role in alcoholism.
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