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Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America

GABAA transmission is a critical step in the process of triggering homeostatic increases in quantal amplitude.


PMID 18678897

Abstract

When activity levels are altered over days, a network of cells is capable of recognizing this perturbation and triggering several distinct compensatory changes that should help to recover and maintain the original activity levels homeostatically. One feature commonly observed after activity blockade has been a compensatory increase in excitatory quantal amplitude. The sensing machinery that detects altered activity levels is a central focus of the field currently, but thus far it has been elusive. The vast majority of studies that reduce network activity also reduce neurotransmission. We address the possibility that reduced neurotransmission can trigger increases in quantal amplitude. In this work, we blocked glutamatergic or GABA(A) transmission in ovo for 2 days while maintaining relatively normal network activity. We found that reducing GABA(A) transmission triggered compensatory increases in both GABA and AMPA quantal amplitude in embryonic spinal motoneurons. Glutamatergic blockade had no effect on quantal amplitude. Therefore, GABA binding to the GABA(A) receptor appears to be a critical step in the sensing machinery for homeostatic synaptic plasticity. The findings suggest that homeostatic increases in quantal amplitude may normally be triggered by reduced levels of activity, which are sensed in the developing spinal cord by GABA, via the GABA(A) receptor. Therefore, GABA appears to be serving as a proxy for activity levels.

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