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Neuroscience. 1996 Sep;74(1):99-105.

Nitric oxide and GABAA receptor function in the rat cerebral cortex and cerebellar granule cells.

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Dipartimento di Fisica, Università di Genova, Italy.


The aim of the present work was to investigate the mechanism by which the diffusible factor nitric oxide regulates GABAA receptor function in the brain. The effect of nitric oxide on GABAA receptor function has been studied in two different neuronal preparations: rat cerebral cortex microsacs and rat cerebellum granule cells in culture. In the first case, GABA-stimulated 36Cl-accumulation was studied as an index of GABAA receptor function. The maximal rate of GABA-stimulated 36Cl- accumulation (Vmax) was reduced by treatment of microsacs with nitric oxide chemical donors such as sodium nitroprusside (-26%) and S-nitroso-acetyl-penicillamine (-11%). The greater effect of the former agent is due to an additional interference by its breakdown products. The biochemical precursor L-arginine (1 mM) produced the same Vmax decrease as S-nitroso-acetyl-penicillamine. This effect was reversed by a nitric oxide synthase blocker and appears truly nitric oxide mediated. The action of nitric oxide in this system does not seem to imply cyclic GMP formation. GABAA receptor function was studied by whole-cell patch-clamp in rat cerebellum granule cells in culture. In this case, L-arginine (100 microM) profoundly reduced the Cl- current elicited by 10 microM GABA and its effect subsided following washing out. The effect of L-arginine was observed almost exclusively on the rapidly desensitizing component of the GABA-activated current. The action of L-arginine was blocked by a protein kinase G inhibitor and mimicked by its activators. Thus, it appears that this effect in these cells involves nitric oxide formation, cyclic GMP accumulation and protein kinase G-catalysed phosphorylation of GABAA receptor.

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