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Trends Neurosci. 2004 May;27(5):262-9.

Tonically active GABA A receptors: modulating gain and maintaining the tone.

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Department of Clinical and Experimental Epilepsy, Institute of Neurology, University College London, Queen Square, London WC1N 3BG, UK.


GABAA receptors not only respond to the local release of GABA from presynaptic terminals, but can also mediate a persistent 'tonic current'. This reflects the activation of high-affinity GABAA receptors by ambient GABA concentrations. Tonic GABAA-receptor-mediated signalling occurs in different brain regions, shows cell-type-specific differences in magnitude and pharmacology, and changes during brain development. Some clues to the adaptive significance of this phenomenon are beginning to emerge: in cerebellar granule cells, it alters the gain of transmission of rate-coded sensory information; in the hippocampus, it acts in a cell-type-specific manner to regulate the excitability of the network. Because tonic conductances can be modulated by changes in GABA release and uptake, and by modulators of high-affinity GABAA receptors including neurosteroids, this phenomenon provides a potentially important new window onto neuronal information processing and pathological states such as epilepsy.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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