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J Neurosci. 1989 Mar;9(3):743-51.

Evidence that glycine mediates the postsynaptic potentials that inhibit lumbar motoneurons during the atonia of active sleep.

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  • 1Department of Physiology, UCLA School of Medicine 90024.


Postsynaptic inhibition of somatic motoneurons underlies the atonia of active sleep. This inhibitory control depends, in large measure, on the bombardment of motoneurons during active sleep by a unique class of large-amplitude inhibitory postsynaptic potentials (IPSPs). These potentials are present only during this behavioral state and have therefore been designated as active sleep-specific IPSPs (AS-IPSPs). The present study was concerned with determining the neurotransmitter that mediates these AS-IPSPs. Lumbar motoneurons were recorded intracellularly during quiet and active sleep in intact, undrugged, normally respiring cats. The frequency and waveform parameters of the inhibitory postsynaptic potentials recorded from these motoneurons were examined following the microiontophoretic juxta-cellular administration of strychnine (a glycine receptor antagonist) and picrotoxin and bicuculline (GABA receptor antagonists). Microiontophoretically applied strychnine abolished the AS-IPSPs and a majority of smaller-amplitude IPSPs. Neither picrotoxin nor bicuculline modified the frequency, amplitude, or rising phase of the AS-IPSPs or the smaller-amplitude IPSPs. We conclude that the postsynaptic inhibitory drive that impinges on motoneurons during active sleep is principally mediated by glycine or a glycinergic substance.

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