The Journal of physiology

Thorough GABAergic innervation of the entire axon initial segment revealed by an optogenetic 'laserspritzer'.

PMID 25085892


GABAergic terminals of chandelier cells exclusively innervate the axon initial segment (AIS) of excitatory neurons. Although the anatomy of these synapses has been well-studied in several brain areas, relatively little is known about their physiological properties. Using vesicular γ-aminobutyric acid transporter-channelrhodopsin 2-enhanced yellow fluorescence protein (VGAT-ChR2-YFP)-expressing mice and a novel fibreoptic 'laserspritzer' approach that we developed, we investigated the physiological properties of axo-axonic synapses (AASs) in brain slices from the piriform cortex (PC) of mice. AASs were in close proximity to voltage-gated Na(+) (NaV) channels located at the AIS. AASs were selectively activated by a 5 μm laserspritzer placed in close proximity to the AIS. Under a minimal laser stimulation condition and using whole-cell somatic voltage-clamp recordings, the amplitudes and kinetics of IPSCs mediated by AASs were similar to those mediated by perisomatic inhibitions. Results were further validated with channelrhodopsin 2-assisted circuit mapping (CRACM) of the entire inhibitory inputs map. For the first time, we revealed that the laserspritzer-induced AAS-IPSCs persisted in the presence of TTX and TEA but not 4-AP. Next, using gramicidin-based perforated patch recordings, we found that the GABA reversal potential (EGABA) was -73.6 ± 1.2 mV when induced at the AIS and -72.8 ± 1.1 mV when induced at the perisomatic site. Our anatomical and physiological results lead to the novel conclusions that: (1) AASs innervate the entire length of the AIS, as opposed to forming a highly concentrated cartridge, (2) AAS inhibition suppresses action potentials and epileptiform activity more robustly than perisomatic inhibitions, and (3) AAS activation alone can be sufficient to inhibit action potential generation and epileptiform activities in vitro.