Development of spontaneous glycinergic currents in the Mauthner neuron of the zebrafish embryo

J Neurophysiol. 2000 Oct;84(4):1726-36. doi: 10.1152/jn.2000.84.4.1726.


We used whole cell and outside-out patch-clamp techniques with reticulospinal Mauthner neurons of zebrafish embryos to investigate the developmental changes in the properties of glycinergic synaptic currents in vivo from the onset of synaptogenesis. Miniature inhibitory postsynaptic currents (mIPSCs) were isolated and recorded in the presence of TTX (1 microM), kynurenic acid (1 mM), and bicuculline (10 microM) and were found to be sensitive to strychnine (1 microM). The mIPSCs were first observed in 26-29 h postfertilization (hpf) embryos at a very low frequency of approximately 0.04 Hz, which increased to approximately 0.5 Hz by 30-40 hpf, and was approximately 10 Hz in newly hatched (>50 hpf) larvae, indicating an accelerated increase in synaptic activity. At all embryonic stages, the amplitudes of the mIPSCs were variable but their means were similar ( approximately 100 pA), suggesting rapid formation of the postsynaptic matrix. The 20-80% rise times of mIPSCs in embryos were longer (0.6-1.2 ms) than in larvae (approximately 0.3 ms), likely due to slower diffusion of glycine at the younger, immature synapses. The mIPSCs decayed with biexponential (tau(off1) and tau(off2)) time courses with a half-width in 26-29 hpf embryos that was longer and more variable than in older embryos and larvae. In 26- to 29-hpf embryos, tau(off1) was approximately 15 ms and tau(off2) was approximately 60 ms, representing events of intermediate duration; but occasionally long mIPSCs were observed in some cells where tau(off1) was approximately 40 ms and tau(off2) was approximately 160 ms. In 30-40 hpf embryos, the events were faster, with tau(off1) approximately 9 ms and tau(off2) approximately 40 ms, and in larvae, events declined somewhat further to tau(off1) approximately 4 ms and tau(off2) approximately 30 ms. Point-per-point amplitude histograms of the decay of synaptic events at all stages resulted in the detection of similar single channel conductances estimated as approximately 45 pS, indicating the presence of heteromeric glycine receptors (GlyRs) from the onset of synaptogenesis. Fast-flow (1 ms) application of a saturating concentration of glycine (3-10 mM) to outside-out patches obtained at 26-29 hpf revealed GlyR currents that decayed biexponentially with time constants resembling the values found for intermediate and long mIPSCs; by 30-40 hpf, the GlyR currents resembled fast mIPSCs. These observations indicate that channel kinetics limited the mIPSC duration. Our data suggest that glycinergic mIPSCs result from the activation of a mixture of fast and slow GlyR subtypes, the properties and proportion of which determine the decay of the synaptic events in the embryos.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Computer Simulation
  • Electric Conductivity
  • Embryo, Nonmammalian / physiology
  • Glycine / physiology*
  • Metencephalon / cytology
  • Metencephalon / physiology*
  • Models, Neurological
  • Neural Inhibition / physiology
  • Neurons / physiology*
  • Synaptic Transmission / physiology
  • Zebrafish / embryology*


  • Glycine