Visual neuroscience

Glycine receptor subunit composition alters the action of GABA antagonists.

PMID 17659095


GABA receptor antagonists produce an unexpectedly significant inhibition of native glycine receptors in retina and in alpha1 or alpha2 homomeric glycine receptors (GlyRs) expressed in HEK 293 cells. In this study we evaluate this phenomenon in heteromeric glycine receptors, formed by mixing alpha1, alpha2, and beta subunits. Picrotoxinin, picrotin, SR95531, and bicuculline are all more effective antagonists at GlyRs containing alpha2 subunits than alpha1 subunits. Inclusion of beta subunits reduces the inhibitory potency of picrotoxinin and picrotin but increases the potency of SR95531 and bicuculline. As a result of these two factors, bicuculline is particularly poor at discriminating GABA and glycine receptors. Picrotin, which has been reported to be inactive at GABA receptors, blocks glycine currents in retina and in HEK293 cells, suggesting its utility as a selective glycine antagonist. However, picrotin is a more potent inhibitor of GABA than glycine in retinal neurons. We also tested if GABA and glycine receptor subunits can combine to form functional receptors. If GABAAR gamma2S subunits are co-expressed with GlyR alpha subunits, the mixed receptor is glycine-sensitive and GABA-insensitive. But the mixed receptor exhibits a non-competitive picrotoxinin inhibition that is not observed in the homomeric GlyRs. This suggests that glycine and GABA subunits can co-assemble to form functional glycine receptors.

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