Journal of neurophysiology

GABAC receptors in the rat superior colliculus and pretectum participate in synaptic neurotransmission.

PMID 12686577


In mammals, GABA(C) receptors seem to be specifically expressed in the retina and the subcortical visual system, with highest extraretinal expression levels in the superior colliculus (SC). Although its presence in the superficial SC has been demonstrated physiologically, a direct involvement of this receptor type in fast synaptic neurotransmission still awaits verification. We addressed the question of a possible synaptic localization of GABA(C) receptors by performing in vitro whole-cell patch-clamp recordings of inhibitory postsynaptic currents (IPSCs) in single neurons of the rat SC and the neighboring pretectal nuclear complex, where GABA(C) receptors are also expressed at significant levels. To increase the likelihood to record IPSCs we induced spontaneous activity by application of the potassium channel blocker 4-aminopyridine (4-AP) and blocked glutamate-mediated excitatory neurotransmission with kynurenic acid. All 4-AP-induced postsynaptic currents were of synaptic origin because they were completely suppressed by lidocaine or by substitution of extracellular calcium with cobalt. In 40% of the SC cells and in 60% of the pretectal neurons, IPSCs in the presence of 4-AP and kynurenic acid were only partly blocked by the selective GABA(A) receptor antagonist bicuculline. Inhibitory currents that were insensitive to bicuculline, however, could be blocked by coapplication of either the specific GABA(C) receptor antagonist 1,2,5,6-tetrahydropyridine-4-yl)methylphosphinic acid or picrotoxin, an unselective GABA(A) and GABA(C) receptor antagonist. We conclude that GABA(C) receptors are, at least partially, located synaptically in SC and pretectal neurons in the rat, which indicates a direct function of this receptor type for synaptic processing in both structures.

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