The European journal of neuroscience

Ionotropic glutamate receptor GluA4 and T-type calcium channel Cav 3.1 subunits control key aspects of synaptic transmission at the mouse L5B-POm giant synapse.

PMID 26390982


The properties and molecular determinants of synaptic transmission at giant synapses connecting layer 5B (L5B) neurons of the somatosensory cortex (S1) with relay neurons of the posteriomedial nucleus (POm) of the thalamus have not been investigated in mice. We addressed this by using direct electrical stimulation of fluorescently labelled single corticothalamic terminals combined with molecular perturbations and whole-cell recordings from POm relay neurons. Consistent with their function as drivers, we found large-amplitude excitatory postsynaptic currents (EPSCs) and multiple postsynaptic action potentials triggered by a single presynaptic action potential. To study the molecular basis of these two features, ionotropic glutamate receptors and low voltage-gated T-type calcium channels were probed by virus-mediated genetic perturbation. Loss of GluA4 almost abolished the EPSC amplitude, strongly delaying the onset of action potential generation, but maintaining the number of action potentials generated per presynaptic action potential. In contrast, knockdown of the Cav 3.1 subunit abrogated the driver function of the synapse at a typical resting membrane potential of -70 mV. However, when depolarizing the membrane potential to -60 mV, the synapse relayed single action potentials. Hence, GluA4 subunits are required to produce an EPSC sufficiently large to trigger postsynaptic action potentials within a defined time window after the presynaptic action potential, while Cav 3.1 expression is essential to establish the driver function of L5B-POm synapses at hyperpolarized membrane potentials.

Related Materials