Cerebral Cortical Circuitry Formation Requires Functional Glycine Receptors

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The development of the cerebral cortex is a complex process that requires the generation, migration, and differentiation of neurons. Interfering with any of these steps can impair the establishment of connectivity and, hence, function of the adult brain. Neurotransmitter receptors have emerged as critical players to regulate these biological steps during brain maturation. Among them, α2 subunit-containing glycine receptors (GlyRs) regulate cortical neurogenesis and the present work demonstrates the long-term consequences of their genetic disruption on neuronal connectivity in the postnatal cerebral cortex. Our data indicate that somatosensory cortical neurons of Glra2 knockout mice (Glra2KO) have more dendritic branches with an overall increase in total spine number. These morphological defects correlate with a disruption of the excitation/inhibition balance, thereby increasing network excitability and enhancing susceptibility to epileptic seizures after pentylenetetrazol tail infusion. Taken together, our findings show that the loss of embryonic GlyRα2 ultimately impairs the formation of cortical circuits in the mature brain.

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