The Journal of neuroscience : the official journal of the Society for Neuroscience

Differential Expression of Munc13-2 Produces Unique Synaptic Phenotypes in the Basolateral Amygdala of C57BL/6J and DBA/2J Mice.

PMID 27798178


C57BL/6J (B6) and DBA/2J (D2) mice are well known to differentially express a number of behavioral phenotypes, including anxiety-like behavior, fear conditioning, and drug self-administration. However, the cellular mechanisms contributing to these differences remain unclear. Given the basolateral amygdala (BLA) contributes to these behaviors, we characterized strain-dependent differences in presynaptic and postsynaptic function in BLA neurons by integrating electrophysiological, biochemical, and genetic approaches to identify specific molecular mechanisms. We found that D2 glutamatergic synapses expressed enhanced release probability and lower sensitivity to both the inhibitory effects of low extracellular calcium and facilitation by phorbol esters. Furthermore, repetitive stimulation of BLA afferents at low (2 Hz) or high (40 Hz) frequencies revealed that B6 terminals, relative to D2 terminals, were more sensitive to synaptic fatigue principally because of reduced vesicle recycling rates. Additionally, B6 synapses exhibited more robust augmentation of spontaneous release after repetitive stimulation relative to the D2 strain. In silico analysis of the inheritance of synaptic physiology from an array of BXD recombinant inbred strains (Jansen et al., 2011) identified a segment on chromosome 4 containing the gene encoding Munc13-2, which has calcium-/phorbol ester-binding domains and controls presynaptic function. We subsequently found that B6 mice express substantially higher levels of Munc13-2 compared with the D2 strain whereas expression of several release-related proteins, including Munc13-1, was equivalent. We then knocked down the expression of Munc13-2 in B6 mice using a short hairpin RNA and found this recapitulated the presynaptic phenotype of D2 BLA synapses. DBA/2J and C57BL/6J mice have been used to understand the genetic mechanisms controlling behaviors related to a number of psychiatric illnesses. However, the fundamental neurobiological mechanisms producing these behavioral characteristics remain unresolved. Here we identify a critical family of presynaptic proteins differentially expressed by these strains that control strain-dependent synaptic physiology. This family of proteins regulates excitation/secretion coupling, vesicle recycling, and short-term plasticity throughout the CNS. Thus, differential inheritance of proteins like Munc13-2 has broad implications for genetic control over a wide variety of pathological behaviors. Importantly, these proteins also contain a large number of modulatory sites, making them attractive potential targets for the development of novel neuropharmaceutical treatments.

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DNQX, ≥98% (TLC)