Electrophysiological Actions of Kainate and Other Excitatory Amino Acids, and the Structure of Their Receptors

  • H. McLennan
  • G. L. Collingridge
  • S. J. Kehl
Part of the Wenner-Gren Center International Symposium Series book series (WGCISS)


It is more than 20 years since Curtis and his colleagues demonstrated that the naturally occurring acidic amino acids L-glutamate and L-aspartate depolarize and excite neurones of the mammalian spinal cord (Curtis, et al., 1959; 1960), and that similar excitatory effects could be elicited by a variety of other compounds chemically related to the natural substances (Curtis and Watkins, 1960; 1963). Curtis and Watkins (1960) set forth the criteria which seemed to be optimal for excitatory effect — “The optimum distance between the amino group and one of the acidic groups of the excitatory amino acids is 2 or 3 carbon atoms. The other acidic group is optimally situated a with respect to the amino group” — and since all active compounds possessed these three polar groups, one cationic and two anionic, it was concluded that reaction with a single population of three-point attachment sites took place. It should however be noted that more recent evidence has been obtained indicating that the reaction of more than one molecule of an amino acid is required for functional activation to occur (McLennan and Wheal, 1976a). It was further noted that the “receptor” was not stereoselective, although for many of the more potent substances the “non-natural” D- configuration appeared to confer a greater excitatory activity.


Excitatory Amino Acid Population Spike Kainate Receptor Perforant Path Stratum Radiatum 
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Copyright information

© The Wenner-Gren Center 1983

Authors and Affiliations

  • H. McLennan
  • G. L. Collingridge
    • 1
  • S. J. Kehl
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of PhysiologyUniversity of British ColumbiaVancouverCanada

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