Fine Tuning of Synaptic Plasticity and Filtering by GABA Released from Hippocampal Autaptic Granule Cells

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The functional consequence of γ-aminobutyric acid (GABA) release at mossy fiber terminals is still a debated topic. Here, we provide multiple evidence of GABA release in cultured autaptic hippocampal granule cells. In ∼50% of the excitatory autaptic neurons, GABA, VGAT, or GAD67 colocalized with vesicular glutamate transporter 1-positive puncta, where both GABAB and GABAA receptors (Rs) were present. Patch-clamp recordings showed a clear enhancement of autaptic excitatory postsynaptic currents in response to the application of the GABABR antagonist CGP58845 only in neurons positive to the selective granule cell marker Prox1, and expressing low levels of GAD67. Indeed, GCP non-responsive excitatory autaptic neurons were both Prox1- and GAD67-negative. Although the amount of released GABA was not sufficient to activate functional postsynaptic GABAARs, it effectively activated presynaptic GABABRs that maintain a tonic “brake” on the probability of release and on the size of the readily releasable pool and contributed to resting potential hyperpolarization possibly through extrasynaptic GABAAR activation. The autocrine inhibition exerted by GABABRs on glutamate release enhanced both paired-pulse facilitation and post-tetanic potentiation. Such GABABR-mediated changes in short-term plasticity confer to immature granule cells the capability to modulate their filtering properties in an activity-dependent fashion, with remarkable consequences on the dynamic behavior of neural circuits.

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