Regulation of NMDA receptors and excitotoxicity

Glutamate mediates signaling between neurons (nerve cells) by binding to protein receptors. Over-activation of one type of glutamate receptor, NMDA, can result in damage to neurons. Dr. Lynn Raymond is researching how neuronal activity and cell proteins regulate NMDA receptors, with the goal of better understanding how irregularities or disruptions in regulatory pathways are implicated in damage associated with neurological disease. Dr. Raymond is especially interested in Huntington’s Disease. This inherited neurological disorder causes progressive neurological damage in specific brain regions leading to movement abnormalities, personality changes, psychiatric disorders and memory loss. Studies have suggested that over-activation of NMDA receptors plays a major role in this selective destruction of brain cells. Dr. Raymond is investigating interactions between mutant huntingtin (the protein produced by the Huntington’s Disease gene) and NMDA receptors to gain a more detailed understanding of the causes of neuronal death in Huntington’s Disease – research that may help in the development of new therapies for this incurable disease.