cDNAs encoding four isoforms of the human NMDA receptor (NMDAR) NMDAR2C (hNR2C-1, -2, -3, and -4) have been isolated and characterized. The overall identity of the deduced amino acid sequences of human and rat NR2C-1 is 89.0%. The sequences of the rat and human carboxyl termini (Gly925- Val1,236) are encoded by different exons and are only 71.5% homologous. In situ hybridization in human brain revealed the expression of the NR2C mRNA in the pontine reticular formation and lack of expression in substantia nigra pars compacta in contrast to the distribution pattern observed previously in rodent brain. The pharmacological properties of hNR1A/2C were determined by measuring agonist-induced inward currents in Xenopus oocytes and compared with those of other human NMDAR subtypes. Glycine, glutamate, and NMDA each discriminated-between hNR1A/2C-1 and at least one of hNR1A/2A, hNR1A/2B, or hNR1A/2D subtypes. Among the antagonists tested, CGS 19755 did not significantly discriminate between any of the four subtypes, whereas 5,7- dichlorokynurenic acid distinguished between hNR1A/2C and hNR1A/2D. Immunoblot analysis of membranes isolated from HEK293 cells transiently transfected with cDNAs encoding hNR1A and each of the four NR2C isoforms indicated the formation of heteromeric complexes between HNR1A and all four hNR2C isoforms. HEK293 cells expressing hNR1A/2C-3 or hNR1A/2C-4 did not display agonist responses. In contrast, we observed an agonist-induced elevation of intracellular free calcium and whole-cell currents in cells expressing hNR1A/2C-1 or hNR1A/2C-2. There were no detectable differences in the macroscopic biophysical properties of hNR1A/2C-1 or hNR1A/2C-2.