Synapses are centrally involved in many brain disorders, particularly in psychiatric and neurodevelopmental ones. However, our current understanding of the proteomic alterations affecting synaptic performance in the majority of mental illnesses is limited. As a result, novel pharmacotherapies with improved neurological efficacy have been scarce over the past decades.
N-methyl-D-aspartate glutamate receptors (NMDARs) play a pivotal role in neural development and synaptic plasticity, as well as in neurological disease. Since NMDARs exert their function at the cell surface, their density in the plasma membrane is finely tuned by a plethora of molecules that regulate their production, trafficking, docking and internalization in response to external stimuli.
Zinc concentrates at excitatory synapses, both at the postsynaptic density and in a subset of glutamatergic boutons. Zinc can modulate synaptic plasticity, memory formation and nociception by regulating transmitter receptors and signal transduction pathways.
Alterations in glutamatergic neurotransmission have long been associated with psychiatric and neurodevelopmental disorders (PNDD), but only recent advances in high-throughput DNA sequencing have allowed interrogation of the prevalence of mutations in glutamate receptors (GluR) among afflicted individuals.