Using standard immunohistochemical procedures, we investigated the changes in the expression of ionotropic glutamate receptor (GluR) subunits, GluRl, GluR5/6/7, and NMDAR1, in the subthalamic nucleus of developing rats. The general sequence of development for each subunit was the same. At early postnatal ages, there was dense neuropil staining and cellular clustering which progressed to decreased neuropil staining and an even distribution of conspicuous cells in the later postnatal ages and in the adult. GluR5/6/7 displayed the earliest maturation, while GluR1 exhibited the slowest maturation. These morphological changes suggest a different time course for the functionality of GluR subtypes in the developing subthalamic nucleus. Correlative electrophysiological studies demonstrated functional GluRs as early as 16 days of age. All neurons tested displayed robust responses to kainate and N-methyl-D-aspartate, and these responses were modulated by dopamine.

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