GABA(C) rho(1) subunits form functional receptors but not functional synapses in hippocampal neurons.
The ability to control the physiological and pharmacological properties of synaptic receptors is a powerful tool for studying neuronal function and may be of therapeutic utility. We designed a recombinant adenovirus to deliver either a GABA(C) receptor rho(1) subunit or a mutant GABA(A) receptor beta(2) subunit lacking picrotoxin sensitivity [beta2(mut)] to hippocampal neurons. A green fluorescent protein (GFP) reporter molecule was simultaneously expressed. Whole cell patch-clamp recordings demonstrated somatic expression of both bicuculline-resistant GABA(C) receptor-mediated and picrotoxin-resistant GABA(A) receptor-mediated GABA-evoked currents in rho(1)- and beta(2)(mut)-transduced hippocampal neurons, respectively. GABAergic miniature inhibitory postsynaptic currents (mIPSCs) recorded in the presence of 6-cyano-7-nitroquinoxalene-2,3-dione, Mg(2+), and TTX revealed synaptic events with monoexponential activation and biexponential decay phases. Despite the robust expression of somatic GABA(C) receptors in rho(1)-neurons, no bicuculline-resistant mIPSCs were observed. This suggested either a kinetic mismatch between the relatively brief presynaptic GABA release and slow-activating rho(1) receptors or failure of the rho(1) subunit to target properly to the subsynaptic membrane. Addition of ruthenium red, a presynaptic release enhancer, failed to unmask GABA(C) receptor-mediated mIPSCs. Short pulse (2 ms) application of 1 mM GABA to excised outside-out patches from rho(1) neurons proved that a brief GABA transient is sufficient to activate rho(1) receptors. The simulated-IPSC experiment strongly suggests that if postsynaptic GABA(C) receptors were present, bicuculline-resistant mIPSCs would have been observed. In contrast, in beta(2)(mut)-transduced neurons, picrotoxin-resistant mIPSCs were observed; they exhibited a smaller peak amplitude and faster decay compared with control. Confocal imaging of transduced neurons revealed rho(1) immunofluorescence restricted to the soma, whereas punctate beta(2)(mut) immunofluorescence was seen throughout the neuron, including the dendrites. Together, the electrophysiological and imaging data show that despite robust somatic expression of the rho(1) subunit, the GABA(C) receptor fails to be delivered to the subsynaptic target. On the other hand, the successful incorporation of beta(2)(mut) subunits into subsynaptic GABA(A) receptors demonstrates that viral transduction is a powerful method for altering the physiological properties of synapses.
Cheng, Q; Burkat, PM; Kulli, JC; Yang, J
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