The 1980s: D-AP5, LTP and a Decade of NMDA Receptor Discoveries.
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In the 1960s and 70s, biochemical and pharmacological evidence was pointing toward glutamate as a synaptic transmitter at a number of distinct receptor classes, known as NMDA and non-NMDA receptors. The field, however, lacked a potent and highly selective antagonist to block these putative postsynaptic receptors. So, the discoveries in the early 1980s of D-AP5 as a selective NMDA receptor antagonist and of its ability to block synaptic events and plasticity were a major breakthrough leading to an explosion of knowledge about this receptor subtype. During the next 10 years, the role of NMDA receptors was established in synaptic transmission, long-term potentiation, learning and memory, epilepsy, pain, among others. Hints at pharmacological heterogeneity among NMDA receptors were followed by the cloning of separate subunits. The purpose of this review is to recognize the important contributions made in the 1980s by Graham L. Collingridge and other key scientists to the advances in our understanding of the functions of NMDA receptors throughout the central nervous system.