GABAA receptor maturation in relation to eye opening in the rat visual cortex

Neuroscience. 2004;124(1):161-71. doi: 10.1016/j.neuroscience.2003.11.004.


Changes in subunit composition of N-methyl-D-aspartate (NMDA) receptors have been reported to be affected by visual experience and may therefore form a major aspect of neuronal plasticity in the CNS during development. In contrast, putative alterations in the expression and functioning of the inhibitory GABAA receptor around eye opening have not been well defined yet. Here we describe the timing of changes in GABAA receptor subunit expression and the related synaptic functioning in the neonatal rat visual cortex and the influence of visual experience on this process. Quantitative analysis of all GABAA receptor subunit transcripts revealed a marked alpha3 to alpha1 subunit switch, in addition to a change in alpha4 and alpha5 expression. The changes were correlated with an acceleration of the decay of spontaneous inhibitory postsynaptic currents (sIPSCs). Both changes in receptor expression and synaptic functioning were initiated well before eye opening. Moreover, dark rearing could not prevent the robust upregulation of alpha1 or the change in sIPSC kinetics, indicating that this is not dependent of sensory (visual) input. Upon eye opening a positive correlation was observed between a faster decay of the sIPSCs and an increase in sIPSC frequency, which was absent in dark-reared animals. Thus, lack of extrinsic input to the cortex does not affect overall developmental regulation of synaptic functioning of GABAA receptors. However, we cannot exclude the possibility that visual experience is involved in proper shaping of the inhibitory network of the primary visual cortex.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Animals, Newborn
  • Critical Period, Psychological
  • Darkness
  • Eye
  • Gene Expression
  • Kinetics
  • Neural Inhibition / physiology
  • Neuronal Plasticity / physiology
  • Patch-Clamp Techniques
  • Photic Stimulation
  • Rats
  • Rats, Wistar
  • Receptors, GABA-A / genetics
  • Receptors, GABA-A / physiology*
  • Visual Cortex / growth & development*
  • Visual Cortex / physiology*


  • Receptors, GABA-A