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J Neurophysiol. 2000 Dec;84(6):2715-24.

Relative contribution by GABA or glycine to Cl(-)-mediated synaptic transmission on rat hypoglossal motoneurons in vitro.

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Biophysics Sector and Istituto Nazionale di Fisica della Materia Unit, International School for Advanced Studies (SISSA), 34014 Trieste, Italy.


The relative contribution by GABA and glycine to synaptic transmission of motoneurons was investigated using an hypoglossus nucleus slice preparation from neonatal rats. Spontaneous, miniature, or electrically evoked postsynaptic currents (sPSCs, mPSCs, ePSCs, respectively) mediated by glycine or GABA were recorded under whole cell voltage clamp after blocking excitatory glutamatergic transmission with kynurenic acid. The overall majority of Cl(-)-mediated sPSCs was glycinergic, while only one-third was GABAergic; 70 +/- 10% of mPSCs were glycinergic while 22 +/- 8% were GABAergic. Tetrodotoxin (TTX) application dramatically reduced the frequency (and slightly the amplitude) of GABAergic events without changing frequency or amplitude of glycinergic sPSCs. These results indicate that, unlike spontaneous GABAergic transmission, glycine-mediated neurotransmission was essentially independent of network activity. There was a consistent difference in the kinetics of GABAergic and glycinergic responses as GABAergic events had significantly slower rise and decay times than glycinergic ones. Such a difference was always present whenever sPSCs, mPSCs, or ePSCs were measured. Finally, GABAergic and glycinergic mPSCs were differentially modulated by activation of glutamate metabotropic receptors (mGluRs), which are abundant in the hypoglossus nucleus. In fact, the broad-spectrum mGluR agonist (+/-)-1-aminocyclopentane-trans-1,3-dicarboxylic acid (50 microM), which in control solution increased the frequency of both GABAergic and glycinergic sPSCs, enhanced the frequency of glycinergic mPSCs only. These results indicate that on brain stem motoneurons, Cl(-)-mediated synaptic transmission is mainly due to glycine rather than GABA and that GABAergic and glycinergic events differ in terms of kinetics and pharmacological sensitivity to mGluR activation or TTX.

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