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Eur J Neurosci. 2007 Aug;26(3):657-65. Epub 2007 Jul 25.

GABAergic currents in RT and VB thalamic nuclei follow kinetic pattern of alpha3- and alpha1-subunit-containing GABAA receptors.

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Department of Physiology and Biophysics, Georgetown University School of Medicine, Washington, DC 20007, USA.


Inhibitory postsynaptic currents (IPSCs) of the thalamic reticular (RT) nucleus are dramatically slower than in the neighboring ventrobasal (VB) neurons. It has been suggested that alpha3-subunit-containing receptors underlie slow IPSCs in RT neurons, while rapid synaptic currents in the VB nucleus are due to gamma-aminobutyric acid A receptors (GABAARs), including the alpha1-subunit. In our recent study [Barberis et al. (2007) Eur. J. Neurosci., 25, 2726-2740] we have found that profound differences in kinetics of currents mediated by alpha3beta2gamma2 and alpha1beta2gamma3 receptors resulted from distinct binding and desensitization properties. However, a direct comparison between kinetics of neuronal GABAARs from RT and VB neurons and alpha3- and alpha1-subunit-containing receptors has not been made. For this purpose, current responses to ultrafast GABA applications were recorded from patches excised from neurons in VB and RT areas. Deactivation kinetics determined for RT and VB neurons closely resembled that in currents mediated by alpha3beta2gamma2 and alpha1beta2gamma2 receptors. In RT neurons, currents elicited by non-saturating [GABA] had a remarkably slow onset, a hallmark of alpha3-subunit-containing receptors. In VB and RT neurons, single-channel currents elicited by brief GABA pulses had similar characteristics to those of alpha1beta2gamma2 and alpha3beta2gamma2 receptors. However, in stationary conditions, similarity between single-channel currents in neurons and respective recombinant receptors was less apparent. We propose that the non-stationary kinetics of GABAergic currents in VB and RT nuclei mimic that of currents mediated by alpha1- and alpha3-subunit-containing receptors. The dissimilarity between stationary kinetics of neuronal and recombinant receptors probably reflects differences between GABAARs mediating phasic and tonic currents in these neurons.

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