Age-dependent regulation of GABA transmission by kappa opioid receptors in the basolateral amygdala of Sprague-Dawley rats

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Anxiety disorders are one of the most common and debilitating mental illnesses worldwide. Growing evidence indicates an age-dependent rise in the incidence of anxiety disorders from adolescence through adulthood, suggestive of underlying neurodevelopmental mechanisms. Kappa opioid receptors (KORs) are known to contribute to the development and expression of anxiety; however, the functional role of KORs in the basolateral amygdala (BLA), a brain structure critical in mediating anxiety, particularly across ontogeny, are unknown. Using whole-cell patch-clamp electrophysiology in acute brain slices from adolescent (postnatal day (P) 30–45) and adult (P60+) male Sprague-Dawley rats, we found that the KOR agonist, U69593, increased the frequency of GABAA-mediated spontaneous inhibitory postsynaptic currents (sIPSCs) in the adolescent BLA, without an effect in the adult BLA or on sIPSC amplitude at either age. The KOR effect was blocked by the KOR antagonist, nor-BNI, which alone did not alter GABA transmission at either age, and the effect of the KOR agonist was TTX-sensitive. Additionally, KOR activation did not alter glutamatergic transmission in the BLA at either age. In contrast, U69593 inhibited sIPSC frequency in the central amygdala (CeA) at both ages, without altering sIPSC amplitude. Western blot analysis of KOR expression indicated that KOR levels were not different between the two ages in either the BLA or CeA. This is the first study to provide compelling evidence for a novel and unique neuromodulatory switch in one of the primary brain regions involved in initiating and mediating anxiety that may contribute to the ontogenic rise in anxiety disorders.

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