Long-term changes in excitatory synapse strength are thought to reflect changes in synaptic abundance of AMPA receptors mediated by receptor trafficking. AMPA receptor-binding protein (ABP) and glutamate receptor-interacting protein (GRIP) are two similar PDZ (postsynaptic density 95/Discs large/zona occludens 1) proteins that interact with glutamate receptors 2 and 3 (GluR2 and GluR3) subunits. Both proteins have proposed roles during long-term potentiation and long-term depression in the delivery and anchorage of AMPA receptors at synapses. Here we report a variant of ABP-L (seven PDZ form of ABP) called pABP-L that is palmitoylated at a cysteine residue at position 11 within a novel 18 amino acid N-terminal leader sequence encoded through differential splicing. In cultured hippocampal neurons, nonpalmitoylated ABP-L localizes with internal GluR2 pools expressed from a Sindbis virus vector, whereas pABP-L is membrane targeted and associates with surface-localized GluR2 receptors at the plasma membrane in spines. Mutation of Cys-11 to alanine blocks the palmitoylation of pABP-L and targets the protein to intracellular clusters, confirming that targeting the protein to spines is dependent on palmitoylation. Non-palmitoylated GRIP is primarily intracellular, but a chimera with the pABP-L N-terminal palmitoylation sequence linked to the body of the GRIP protein is targeted to spines. We suggest that pABP-L and ABP-L provide, respectively, synaptic and intracellular sites for the anchorage of AMPA receptors during receptor trafficking to and from the synapse.
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