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Elife. 2017 Sep 9;6. pii: e29893. doi: 10.7554/eLife.29893.

Cell-specific gain modulation by synaptically released zinc in cortical circuits of audition.

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Department of Otolaryngology, University of Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh, United States.
The Third Xiangya Hospital, Central South University, Changsha, China.
Contributed equally


In many excitatory synapses, mobile zinc is found within glutamatergic vesicles and is coreleased with glutamate. Ex vivo studies established that synaptically released (synaptic) zinc inhibits excitatory neurotransmission at lower frequencies of synaptic activity but enhances steady state synaptic responses during higher frequencies of activity. However, it remains unknown how synaptic zinc affects neuronal processing in vivo. Here, we imaged the sound-evoked neuronal activity of the primary auditory cortex in awake mice. We discovered that synaptic zinc enhanced the gain of sound-evoked responses in CaMKII-expressing principal neurons, but it reduced the gain of parvalbumin- and somatostatin-expressing interneurons. This modulation was sound intensity-dependent and, in part, NMDA receptor-independent. By establishing a previously unknown link between synaptic zinc and gain control of auditory cortical processing, our findings advance understanding about cortical synaptic mechanisms and create a new framework for approaching and interpreting the role of the auditory cortex in sound processing.


auditory cortex; cortical gain; interneurons; mouse; neuroscience; principal neurons; sound processing; zinc

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