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J Neurosci. 2018 Dec 6. pii: 0567-18. doi: 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.0567-18.2018. [Epub ahead of print]

Input-specific synaptic location and function of the alpha5 GABAA receptor subunit in the mouse CA1 hippocampal neurons.

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Department of Biochemistry, Microbiology and Bio-informatics; Neuroscience Axis, CHU de Québec Research Center (CHUL), Laval University, Québec, PQ, Canada.
Department of Biochemistry, Microbiology and Bio-informatics; Neuroscience Axis, CHU de Québec Research Center (CHUL), Laval University, Québec, PQ, Canada


Hippocampus-dependent learning processes are coordinated via a large diversity of GABAergic inhibitory mechanisms. The alpha5 subunit-containing GABAA receptor (α5-GABAAR) is abundantly expressed in the hippocampus populating primarily the extrasynaptic domain of CA1 pyramidal cells, where it mediates tonic inhibitory conductance and may cause functional deficits in synaptic plasticity and hippocampus-dependent memory. However, little is known about synaptic expression of the α5-GABAAR and, accordingly, its location site-specific function. We examined the cell- and synapse-specific distribution of the α5-GABAAR in the CA1 stratum oriens/alveus (O/A) using a combination of immunohistochemistry, whole-cell patch-clamp recordings and optogenetic stimulation in hippocampal slices obtained from mice of either sex. In addition, the input-specific role of the α5-GABAAR in spatial learning and anxiety-related behavior was studied using behavioral testing and chemogenetic manipulations. We demonstrate that α5-GABAAR is preferentially targeted to the inhibitory synapses made by the vasoactive intestinal peptide (VIP)- and calretinin (CR)-positive terminals onto dendrites of somatostatin-expressing interneurons. In contrast, synapses made by the parvalbumin-positive inhibitory inputs to O/A interneurons showed no or little α5-GABAAR. Inhibiting the α5-GABAAR in control mice in vivo improved spatial learning but also induced anxiety-like behavior. Inhibiting the α5-GABAAR in mice with inactivated CA1 VIP input could still improve spatial learning and was not associated with anxiety. Together, these data indicate that the α5-GABAAR-mediated phasic inhibition via VIP input to interneurons plays a predominant role in the regulation of anxiety while the α5-GABAAR tonic inhibition via this subunit may control spatial learning.SIGNIFICANCE STATEMENTThe α5-GABAAR subunit exhibits high expression in the hippocampus, and regulates the induction of synaptic plasticity and the hippocampus-dependent mnemonic processes. In CA1 principal cells, this subunit occupies mostly extrasynaptic sites and mediates tonic inhibition. Here, we provide evidence that, in CA1 somatostatin-expressing interneurons, the α5-GABAAR subunit is targeted to synapses formed by the VIP- and calretinin-expressing inputs, and plays a specific role in the regulation of anxiety-like behavior.

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