Dendritic excitability and localization of GABA-mediated inhibition in spider mechanoreceptor neurons

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GABAergic inhibition of mechanosensory afferent axon terminals is a widespread phenomenon in vertebrates and invertebrates. Spider mechanoreceptor neurons receive efferent innervation on their peripherally located axons, somata and sensory dendrites, and the dendrites have recently been shown to be excitable. Excitability of the spider sensory neurons is inhibited by muscimol and GABA, agonists of ionotropic GABA receptors. Here we asked where in the neurons this inhibition occurs. We found no evidence for inhibition of action potentials in the sensory dendrites, but axonal action potentials were rapidly suppressed by both agonists. Earlier work showed that metabotropic GABAB receptors are located on the dendrites and distal somata of the spider sensory neurons, where they modulate voltage-activated conductances and may provide slower, prolonged inhibition. Therefore, GABA released from single peripheral efferents may activate both ionotropic and metabotropic receptor types, providing rapid suppression of axonal activity followed by slower inhibition that eventually prevents action potential initiation in the distal dendrites.

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