Age-related decline in memory has been associated with changes in mRNA and protein expression of different NMDA receptor subunits. The NMDA receptor GluN1 subunit appears to be necessary and sufficient for receptor function. There is evidence that the mRNA expressions of some splice forms of the subunit are influenced by aging and/or behavioral testing experience in old mice. The present study explored the relationships between behavioral testing experience and protein expression of different GluN1 subunit isoforms in the prefrontal/frontal cortex of the brain during aging. Aged C57BL/6 mice with behavioral testing experience showed declines in performance in both spatial working and reference memory tasks. Protein expression of GluN1 C-terminal cassettes C2 and C2′, but not the C1 or N1 cassettes, was observed to decline with increasing age, regardless of experience. In middle-age animals, higher expressions of the GluN1 subunit and C2′ cassette proteins were associated with good reference memory on initial search. Aged animals with a higher protein expression of GluN1 subunits containing C1 cassettes and the whole population of GluN1 subunits exhibited a closer proximity to the former platform location within the final phase of probe trials. However, the old mice with high expression of the C1 cassette did not show an accurate search during this phase. The old mice with lower expression of the C1 cassette protein more closely mimicked the performances of the young and middle-aged mice. These results indicate that there was heterogeneity in the effect of aging on the expression of the GluN1 subunits containing different splice cassettes. It also suggests that the GluN1 subunit might be most important for good reference memory during middle age, but this relationship may not be maintained into old age.
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
Funding sources: This research was supported in part by NIH grants AG016322 (KRM) and P20RR16454-02 (Idea Network of Biomedical Research Excellence, Idaho).
- Cumulative proximity
- Learning index
- Prefrontal cortex
- Splice form
- Splice variant
- Water maze