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Dev Neurobiol. 2008 Jun;68(7):934-49. doi: 10.1002/dneu.20632.

Developmental downregulation of GABAergic drive parallels formation of functional synapses in cultured mouse neocortical networks.

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Institut für Physiologie, Medizinische Fakultät, Otto-von-Guericke-Universität, Magdeburg, Germany.


Networks of cortical neurons in vitro spontaneously develop synchronous oscillatory electrical activity at around the second week in culture. However, the underlying mechanisms and in particular the role of GABAergic interneurons in initiation and synchronization of oscillatory activity in developing cortical networks remain elusive. Here, we examined the intrinsic properties and the development of GABAergic and glutamatergic input onto presumed projection neurons (PNs) and large interneurons (L-INs) in cortical cultures of GAD67-GFP mice. Cultures developed spontaneous synchronous activity already at 5-7 days in vitro (DIV), as revealed by imaging transient changes in Fluo-3 fluorescence. Concurrently, spontaneous glutamate-mediated and GABA(A)-mediated postsynaptic currents (sPSCs) occured at 5 DIV. For both types of neurons the frequency of glutamatergic and GABAergic sPSCs increased with DIV, whereas the charge transfer of glutamatergic sPSCs increased and the charge transfer of GABAergic sPSCs decreased with cultivation time. The ratio between GABAergic and the overall charge transfer was significantly reduced with DIV for L-INs and PNs, indicating an overall reduction in GABAergic synaptic drive with maturation of the network. In contrast, analysis of miniature PSCs (mPSCs) revealed no significant changes of charge transfer with DIV for both types of neurons, indicating that the reduction in GABAergic drive was not due to a decreased number of functional synapses. Our data suggest that the global reduction in GABAergic synaptic drive together with more synaptic input to PNs and L-INs during maturation may enhance rhythmogenesis of the network and increase the synchronization at the level of population bursts.

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