Excitatory actions of GABA in developing chick vestibular afferents: Effects on resting electrical activity

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The aim of this study was to characterize the effect of γ-aminobutyric acid (GABA) in the resting multiunit activity of the vestibular afferents during development using the isolated inner ear of embryonic and postnatal chickens (E15-E21 and P5). GABA (10−3 to 10−5 M; n = 133) and muscimol (10−3M) elicited an increase in the frequency of the basal discharge of the vestibular afferents. We found that GABA action was dose-dependent and inversely related to animal age. Thus, the largest effect was observed in embryonic ages such as E15 and E17 and decreases in E21 and P5. The GABAA receptor antagonists, bicuculline (10−5M; n = 10) and picrotoxin (10−4M; n = 10), significantly decreased the excitatory action of GABA and muscimol (10−3M). Additionally, CNQX 10−6M, MCPG 10−5M and 7ClKyn 10−5M (n = 5) were co-applied by bath substitution (n = 5). Both the basal discharge and the GABA action significantly decreased in these experimental conditions. The chloride channel blocker 9-AC 0.5 mM produced an important reduction in the effect of GABA 10−3 (n = 5) and 10−4M (n = 5). Thus, our results suggest an excitatory role of GABA in the resting activity of the vestibular afferents that can be explained by changes in the gradient of concentration of Cl− during development. We show for the first time that the magnitude of this GABA effect decreases at later stages of embryonic and early postnatal development. Taking into account the results with glutamatergic antagonists, we conclude that GABA has a presynaptic action but is not the neurotransmitter in the vestibular afferent synapses, although it could act as a facilitator of the spontaneous activity and may regulate glutamate release. Synapse 67:374–381, 2013. © 2013 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.

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