Richard Huganir,PHD

Bloomberg Distinguished Professor of Neuroscience and Psychological and Brain Sciences



Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine

725 N. Wolfe Street

Hunterian 1009A

Baltimore, MD 21205


Huganir Lab

Twitter: @rhuganir

Dr. Richard Huganir is Bloomberg Distinguished Professor of Neuroscience and Psychological and Brain Sciences, Director, Department of Neuroscience, and Co-Director, Johns Hopkins Medicine Brain Science Institute. 

Neurotransmitter receptors mediate signal transduction at the postsynaptic membrane of synaptic connections between neurons in the nervous system. We have been studying the molecular mechanisms in the regulation of neurotransmitter receptor function. Recently we have focused on glutamate receptors, the major excitatory receptors in the brain. Glutamate receptors can be divided into two major classes: AMPA and NMDA receptors. AMPA receptors mediate rapid excitatory synaptic transmission while NMDA receptors play important roles in neuronal plasticity and development. Studies in our laboratory have found that both AMPA and NMDA receptors are multiply phosphorylated by a variety of protein kinases. Phosphorylation regulates several functional properties of these receptors including conductance and membrane targeting. Recent studies in our lab have demonstrated that the phosphorylation of AMPA receptors is regulated during cellular models of learning and memory such as long-term potentiation (LTP) and long-term depression (LTD). Moreover, phosphorylation of the AMPA receptor GluR1 subunit is required for the expression of these forms of plasticity and for the retention of spatial memory and also regulates emotional memory formation and erasure.

We have also been examining the mechanisms of the subcellular targeting and clustering of glutamate receptors at synapses. We have recently identified a variety of proteins that directly or indirectly interact with AMPA and NMDA receptors. We have found a novel family of proteins that we call GRIPs (Glutamate Receptor Interacting Proteins) that directly bind to the C-termini of the GluR2/3 subunits of AMPA receptors. GRIPs contain seven PDZ domains, protein-protein interaction motifs, which crosslink AMPA receptors to each other or link them to other proteins. In addition, we have found that the C-termini of GluR2 also interacts with the PDZ domain of PICK1, a protein kinase C-binding protein that is found at excitatory synapses. The GluR2 subunit also interacts with the NSF protein, a protein involved in the regulation of membrane fusion events. These AMPA receptor interacting proteins are critical in the proper membrane trafficking and synaptic targeting of these receptors. We have shown that the binding of PICK1 and GRIP is required for a specific form of LTD in the cerebellum that is a cellular model for motor learning. Moreover, we have found that this receptor complex is critical for hippocampal LTP and LTD and spatial learning.

In addition to these studies on AMPA receptors, we have been characterizing a separate NMDA receptor associated protein complex that is important in synaptic targeting and downstream signaling of NMDA receptors. We have identified an excitatory synapse specific rasGAP, which we call SynGAP that regulates synaptic Ras signaling and has profound effects on synaptic plasticity. Recently, human genetic studies have shown mutations in SynGAP underlie 1% of intellectual disability and are associated with autism and schizophrenia indicating SynGAP is critical for normal and abnormal human cognition.

Recent evidence has also implicated glutamate receptor associated complexes in many several neurological and psychiatric disorders including Alzheimer’s disease, bipolar disorder, depression as well as in chronic pain and drug addiction.

In summary, we have examined the molecular mechanisms underlying the regulation of neurotransmitter receptor function. Our studies have suggested that regulation of receptor function may be a major mechanism for the regulation of synaptic plasticity in the nervous system in health and disease and may be an important determinant of animal behavior.

Representative Publications:

Gamache, T.R., Araki, Y., Huganir, R.L. (2020)  Twenty Years of SynGAP Research: From Synapses to Cognition. J Neurosci. 2020 Feb 19;40(8):1596-1605.

Tan, H.L., Roth, R.H., Graves, A.R., Cudmore, R.H., Huganir, R.L. (2020)  Lamina-specific AMPA receptor dynamics following visual deprivation in vivo. eLife. 2020 Mar 3;9. pii: e52420.   PMCID:  PMC7053996. 

Roth, R., Cudmore, R., Tan, H., Hong, I., Zhang, Y., Huganir, R. (2019) Cortical Synaptic AMPA Receptor Plasticity During Motor Learning. Neuron. 105(5):895-908.  PMCID:  PMC7060107.

Diering, G.H., Huganir, R.L.  (2018) The AMPA Receptor Code of Synaptic Plasticity. Neuron. 100(2):  314-329.

Diering, G.H., Nirujogi, R.S., Roth, R.H., Worley, P.F., Pandey, A., Huganir, R.L. (2017)   Homer1a drives Homeostatic Scaling-down of Excitatory Synapses During Sleep. Science. 355(6324):511-515. PMCID:  PMC5382711.

Roth, R.H., Zhang, Y., Huganir, R.L. (2017) Dynamic imaging of AMPA receptor trafficking in vitro and in vivo. Curr Opin Neurobiol. Apr 12; 45: 51-58. 

Heo, S., Diering, G.H., Na, C.H., Nirujogi, R.S., Bachman, J.L., Pandey, A., Huganir, R.L.(2018) Identification of long-lived synaptic proteins by proteomic analysis of synaptosome protein turnover. Proc Natl Acad Sci USA. 115(16): E3827-E3836. 

Chiu, S.L., Diering, G.H., Ye, B., Takamiya, K., Chen, C-M., Jiang, Y., Niranjan, T., Schwartz, C., Wang, T., Huganir, R.L. (2017) GRASP1 regulates synaptic plasticity and learning through endosomal recycling of AMPA receptors. Neuron. 93(6):  1405-1419. 

Lagerlöf, O., Slocomb, J.E., Hong, I., Aponte, Y., Blackshaw, S., Hart, G.W., Huganir, R.L. (2016) The nutrient sensor OGT in PVN neurons regulates feeding. Science. 351(6279): 1293-6.

Widagdo, J., Chai, Y.J., Ridder, M.C., Chau, Y.Q., Johnson, R.C., Sah, P., Huganir, R.L., Anggono, V. (2015) Activity-Dependent Ubiquitination of GluA1 and GluA2 Regulates AMPA Receptor Intracellular Sorting and Degradation.  Cell Reports. Pii:S2211-1247(15)000028-5.

Zhang, Y., Cudmore, R., Lin, D-T., Linden, D., Huganir, R.L. (2015)  Visualization of NMDA Receptor-Dependent AMPA Receptor Synaptic Plasticity In Vivo. Nature Neuroscience. 18(3): 402-7.

Araki, Y., Zeng, M., Zhang, M., Huganir, R.L.  (2014) Rapid Exclusion of SynGAP from Synaptic Spines Triggers AMPA Receptor Insertion and Spine Enlargement During LTP. Neuron.  85(1): 173-189.

Diering, G., Gustina, A., Huganir, R.L. (2014)  PKA-GluA1 coupling via AKAP5 controls AMPA receptor phosphorylation and cell-surface targeting during bidirectional homeostatic plasticity.  Neuron.  84(4): 790-805.

Sia, G.M., Clem, R. L., Huganir, R.L.  (2013) The human language-associated gene SRPX2 regulates synapse formation and vocalization in mice.  Science.  342(6161): 987-91.

Volk, L.J., Bachman, J.L., Johnson, R., Yu, Y., Huganir, R.L. (2013) PKM-Z is not required for hippocampal synaptic plasticity, learning and memory.  Nature. 493(7432): 420-3. 

Thomas, G.M., Hayashi, T., Chiu, S.L., Chen, C.M., Huganir, R.L. (2012) Palmitoylation by DHHC5/8 targets GRIP1 to dendritic endosomes to regulate AMPA-R trafficking. Neuron. 73(3):482-96.

Makuch, L., Volk, L., Anggono, V., Johnson, R.C., Yu, Y., Duning, K., Kremerskothen, J., Xia, J., Takamiya, K., Huganir, R.L. (2011) Regulation of AMPA receptor function by the human memory-associated gene KIBRA. Neuron. 71(6):1022-9.

Makino, Y., Johnson, R.C., Yu, Y., Takamiya, K., Huganir, R.L. (2011)  Enhanced synaptic plasticity in mice with phosphomimetic mutation of the GluA1 AMPA receptor. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 108(20):8450-5. 

Mejias, R., Adamczyk, A., Anggono, V., Niranjan, T., Thomas, G.M., Sharma, K., Skinner, C., Schwartz, C.E., Stevenson, R.E., Fallin, M.D., Kaufmann, W., Pletnikov, M., Valle, D., Huganir, R.L., Wang, T.  (2011) Gain-of-function glutamate receptor interacting protein 1 variants alter GluA2 recycling and surface distribution in patients with autism. Proc Natl Acad Sci USA. 108(12):4920-5.  

Clem, R., Huganir, R.L. (2010) Calcium-permeable AMPA receptor dynamics mediate fear memory erasure.  Science.  330(6007): 1108-12. 

Hayashi, T., Thomas, G., Huganir, R.L. (2009) Dual palmitoylation of NR2 subunits regulates NMDA receptor trafficking. Neuron. 64(2): 213-226.

Lin, D.T., Makino, Y., Sharma, K., Hayashi, T., Neve, R., Takamiya, K., Huganir, R.L. (2009) Regulation of AMPA receptor GluR1 subunit extrasynaptic insertion events by 4.1N, phosphorylation and palmitoylation. Nat. Neurosci. 12(7): 879-87.

Sia, G.-M., Beique, J.-C., Rumbaugh, G., Cho, R., Worley, P.F., Huganir, R.L. (2007) Interaction of the N-terminal domain of the AMPA receptor GluR4 subunit with the neuronal pentraxin NP1 mediates GluR4 synaptic recruitment. Neuron. 55(1): 87-102.

Steinberg, J.P., Takamiya, K., Shen, Y., Xia, J., Rubio, M.E., Yu, S., Jin, W., Thomas, G.M., Linden, D.J., Huganir, R.L.  (2006) Targeted in vivo mutations of the AMPA receptor subunit GluR2 and its interacting protein PICK1 eliminate cerebellar long-term depression. Neuron. 49(6): 845-60.

Chung, H.J., Steinberg, J.P., Huganir, R.L. and Linden, D.J. (2003) Requirement of AMPA receptor GluR2 phosphorylation for cerebellar long-term depression. Science 300:1751-1755.

Lee, H.-K., Takamiya, K., Han, J.-S., Man, H., Kim, C.-H., Rumbaugh, G., Yu, S., Ding, L., He, C., Petralia, R.S., Wenthold, R.J., Gallagher, M., and Huganir, R.L. (2003) Phosphorylation of the AMPA receptor GluR1 subunit is required for synaptic plasticity and retention of spatial memory. Cell. 112:631-642.

Lee, H.-K., Barbarosie, M., Kameyama, K., Bear, M.F., and Huganir, R.L. (2000) Regulation of distinct AMPA receptor phosphorylation sites during bidirectional synaptic plasticity. Nature. 405:955-959.

Ehlers, M.D., Zhang, S., Bernhardt, J.P., and Huganir R.L. (1996) Inactivation of NMDA receptors by direct interaction of calmodulin with NR1 subunit. Cell 84:745-755.

Complete list of published works in MyBibliography:


To advance neuroscience discovery by uniting neuroscience, engineering and computational data science to understand the structure and function of the brain.