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J Neurophysiol. 2000 Nov;84(5):2465-76.

Protracted postnatal development of inhibitory synaptic transmission in rat hippocampal area CA1 neurons.

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Pediatric Regional Epilepsy Program and Joseph Stokes Research Institute of the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, Division of Neurology, University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 19104, USA.


In the CNS, inhibitory synaptic function undergoes profound transformation during early postnatal development. This is due to variations in the subunit composition of subsynaptic GABA(A) receptors (GABA(A)Rs) at differing developmental stages as well as other factors. These include changes in the driving force for chloride-mediated conductances as well as the quantity and/or cleft lifetime of released neurotransmitter. The present study was undertaken to investigate the nature and time course of developmental maturation of GABAergic synaptic function in hippocampal CA1 pyramidal neurons. In neonatal [postnatal day (P) 1-7] and immature (P8-14) CA1 neurons, miniature inhibitory postsynaptic currents (mIPSCs) were significantly larger, were less frequent, and had slower kinetics compared with mIPSCs recorded in more mature neurons. Adult mIPSC kinetics were achieved by the third postnatal week in CA1 neurons. However, despite this apparent maturation of mIPSC kinetics, significant differences in modulation of mIPSCs by allosteric agonists in adolescent (P15-21) neurons were still evident. Diazepam (1-300 nM) and zolpidem (200 nM) increased the amplitude of mIPSCs in adolescent but not adult neurons. Both drugs increased mIPSC decay times equally at both ages. These differential agonist effects on mIPSC amplitude suggest that in adolescent CA1 neurons, inhibitory synapses operate differently than adult synapses and function as if subsynaptic receptors are not fully occupied by quantal release of GABA. Rapid agonist application experiments on perisomatic patches pulled from adolescent neurons provided additional support for this hypothesis. In GABA(A)R currents recorded in these patches, benzodiazepine amplitude augmentation effects were evident only when nonsaturating GABA concentrations were applied. Furthermore nonstationary noise analysis of mIPSCs in P15-21 neurons revealed that zolpidem-induced mIPSC augmentation was not due to an increase in single-channel conductance of subsynaptic GABA(A)Rs but rather to an increase in the number of open channels responding to a single GABA quantum, further supporting the hypothesis that synaptic receptors may not be saturated during synaptic function in adolescent neurons. These data demonstrate that inhibitory synaptic transmission undergoes a markedly protracted postnatal maturation in rat CA1 pyramidal neurons. In the first two postnatal weeks, mIPSCs are large in amplitude, are slow, and occur infrequently. By the third postnatal week, mIPSCs have matured kinetically but retain distinct responses to modulatory drugs, possibly reflecting continued immaturity in synaptic structure and function persisting through adolescence.

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