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J Neurosci. 2006 Aug 16;26(33):8537-48.

Dynamic regulation of synaptic GABA release by the glutamate-glutamine cycle in hippocampal area CA1.

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Division of Neurology and the Pediatric Regional Epilepsy Program, Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 19104, USA.


Vesicular GABA and intraterminal glutamate concentrations are in equilibrium, suggesting inhibitory efficacy may depend on glutamate availability. Two main intraterminal glutamate sources are uptake by neuronal glutamate transporters and glutamine synthesized through the astrocytic glutamate-glutamine cycle. We examined the involvement of the glutamate-glutamine cycle in modulating GABAergic synaptic efficacy. In the absence of neuronal activity, disruption of the glutamate-glutamine cycle by blockade of neuronal glutamine transport with alpha-(methylamino) isobutyric acid (MeAIB; 5 mM) or inhibition of glutamine synthesis in astrocytes with methionine sulfoximine (MSO; 1.5 mM) had no effect on miniature IPSCs recorded in hippocampal area CA1 pyramidal neurons. However, after a period of moderate synaptic activity, application of MeAIB, MSO, or dihydrokainate (250 microM; an astrocytic glutamate transporter inhibitor) significantly reduced evoked IPSC (eIPSC) amplitudes. The MSO effect could be reversed by exogenous application of glutamine (5 mM), whereas glutamine could not rescue the eIPSC decreases induced by the neuronal glutamine transporter inhibitor MeAIB. The activity-dependent reduction in eIPSCs by glutamate-glutamine cycle blockers was accompanied by an enhanced blocking effect of the low-affinity GABA(A) receptor antagonist, TPMPA [1,2,5,6-tetrahydropyridin-4-yl)methylphosphinic acid], consistent with diminished GABA release. We further corroborated this hypothesis by examining MeAIB effects on minimal stimulation-evoked quantal IPSCs (meIPSCs). We found that, in MeAIB-containing medium, moderate stimulation induced depression in potency of meIPSCs but no change in release probability, consistent with reduced vesicular GABA content. We conclude that the glutamate-glutamine cycle is a major contributor to synaptic GABA release under physiological conditions, which dynamically regulates inhibitory synaptic strength.

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