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J Neurosci. 2005 Oct 26;25(43):10016-24.

Multiple and plastic receptors mediate tonic GABAA receptor currents in the hippocampus.

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  • 1Institute of Neurology, University College London, London WC1N 3BG, United Kingdom.


Persistent activation of GABAA receptors by extracellular GABA (tonic inhibition) plays a critical role in signal processing and network excitability in the brain. In hippocampal principal cells, tonic inhibition has been reported to be mediated by alpha5-subunit-containing GABAA receptors (alpha5GABAARs). Pharmacological or genetic disruption of these receptors improves cognitive performance, suggesting that tonic inhibition has an adverse effect on information processing. Here, we show that alpha5GABAARs contribute to tonic currents in pyramidal cells only when ambient GABA concentrations increase (as may occur during increased brain activity). At low ambient GABA concentrations, activation of delta-subunit-containing GABAA receptors predominates. In epileptic tissue, alpha5GABAARs are downregulated and no longer contribute to tonic currents under conditions of raised extracellular GABA concentrations. Under these conditions, however, the tonic current is greater in pyramidal cells from epileptic tissue than in pyramidal cells from nonepileptic tissue, implying substitution of alpha5GABAARs by other GABAA receptor subtypes. These results reveal multiple components of tonic GABAA receptor-mediated conductance that are activated by low GABA concentrations. The relative contribution of these components changes after the induction of epilepsy, implying an adaptive plasticity of the tonic current in the presence of spontaneous seizures.

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