NMDA receptors, critical for neuronal development and function, convert chemical messages between cells into electrical signals within a neuron. The key to transmitting that information is opening the receptor’s built-in ion channel, a hollow pore that allows electrically charged ions to flow. CSHL Professor Furokawa’s lab discovered that unlocking the receptor’s ion channel is like working a stringed puppet—rock one part of the receptor and filaments pull open the channel’s gate. Rock it a little differently, the filaments loosen, and the gate snaps shut.
Read the related story: Brain receptor pulls open electrical gate like a puppet master