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J Neurosci. 2009 Dec 2;29(48):15195-204. doi: 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.4203-09.2009.

Enhanced excitatory input to melanin concentrating hormone neurons during developmental period of high food intake is mediated by GABA.

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Department of Neurosurgery, Yale University School of Medicine, New Haven, Connecticut 06520, USA.


In contrast to the local axons of GABA neurons of the cortex and hippocampus, lateral hypothalamic neurons containing melanin concentrating hormone (MCH) and GABA send long axons throughout the brain and play key roles in energy homeostasis and mental status. In adults, MCH neurons maintain a hyperpolarized membrane potential and most of the synaptic input is inhibitory. In contrast, we found that developing MCH neurons received substantially more excitatory synaptic input. Based on gramicidin-perforated patch recordings in hypothalamic slices from MCH-green fluorescent protein transgenic mice, we found that GABA was the primary excitatory synaptic transmitter in embryonic and neonatal ages up to postnatal day 10. Surprisingly, glutamate assumed only a minor excitatory role, if any. GABA plays a complex role in developing MCH neurons, with its actions conditionally dependent on a number of factors. GABA depolarization could lead to an increase in spikes either independently or in summation with other depolarizing stimuli, or alternately, depending on the relative timing of other depolarizing events, could lead to shunting inhibition. The developmental shift from depolarizing to hyperpolarizing occurred later in the dendrites than in the cell body. Early GABA depolarization was based on a Cl(-)-dependent inward current. An interesting secondary depolarization in mature neurons that followed an initial hyperpolarization was based on a bicarbonate mechanism. Thus during the early developmental period when food consumption is high, MCH neurons are more depolarized than in the adult, and an increased level of excitatory synaptic input to these orexigenic cells is mediated by GABA.

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