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J Neurophysiol. 2013 Feb;109(3):803-12. doi: 10.1152/jn.00460.2012. Epub 2012 Oct 31.

Rapid regulation of tonic GABA currents in cultured rat hippocampal neurons.

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Epilepsy Center of Excellence, Veterans Affairs Puget Sound Health Care System, Seattle, WA, USA.


Subacute and chronic changes in tonic GABAergic inhibition occur in human and experimental epilepsy. Less is known about how tonic inhibition is modulated over shorter time frames (seconds). We measured endogenous tonic GABA currents from cultured rat hippocampal neurons to evaluate how they are affected by 1) transient increases in extracellular GABA concentration ([GABA]), 2) transient postsynaptic depolarization, and 3) depolarization of presynaptic cells. Transient increases in [GABA] (1 μM) reduced tonic currents; this reduction resulted from GABA-induced shifts in the reversal potential for GABA currents (E(GABA)). Transient depolarization of postsynaptic neurons reversed the effects of exogenous GABA and potentiated tonic currents. The voltage-dependent potentiation of tonic GABA currents was independent of E(GABA) shifts and represented postdepolarization potentiation (PDP), an intrinsic GABA(A) receptor property (Ransom CB, Wu Y, Richerson GB. J Neurosci 30: 7672-7684, 2010). Inhibition of vesicular GABA release with concanamycin A (ConA) did not affect tonic currents. In ConA-treated cells, transient application of 12 mM K(+) to depolarize presynaptic neurons and glia produced a persistent increase in tonic current amplitude. The K(+)-induced increase in tonic current was reversibly inhibited by SKF89976a (40 μM), indicating that this was caused by nonvesicular GABA release from GABA transporter type 1 (GAT1). Nonvesicular GABA release due to GAT1 reversal also occurred in acute hippocampal brain slices. Our results indicate that tonic GABA currents are rapidly regulated by GABA-induced changes in intracellular Cl(-) concentration, PDP of extrasynaptic GABA(A) receptors, and nonvesicular GABA release. These mechanisms may influence tonic inhibition during seizures when neurons are robustly depolarized and extracellular GABA and K(+) concentrations are elevated.

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