G-protein-coupled GABAB receptors inhibit Ca2+ channels and modulate transmitter release in descending turtle spinal cord terminal synapsing motoneurons

J Comp Neurol. 2007 Aug 10;503(5):642-54. doi: 10.1002/cne.21421.


Presynaptic gamma-aminobutyric acid type B receptors (GABA(B)Rs) regulate transmitter release at many central synapses by inhibiting Ca(2+) channels. However, the mechanisms by which GABA(B)Rs modulate neurotransmission at descending terminals synapsing on motoneurons in the spinal cord remain unexplored. To address this issue, we characterized the effects of baclofen, an agonist of GABA(B)Rs, on the monosynaptic excitatory postsynaptic potentials (EPSPs) evoked in motoneurons by stimulation of the dorsolateral funiculus (DLF) terminals in a slice preparation from the turtle spinal cord. We found that baclofen depressed neurotransmission in a dose-dependent manner (IC(50) of approximately 2 microM). The membrane time constant of the motoneurons did not change, whereas the amplitude ratio of the evoked EPSPs in response to a paired pulse was altered in the presence of the drug, suggesting a presynaptic mechanism. Likewise, the use of N- and P/Q-type Ca(2+) channel antagonists (omega-conotoxin GVIA and omega-agatoxin IVA, respectively) also depressed EPSPs significantly. Therefore, these channels are likely involved in the Ca(2+) influx that triggers transmitter release from DLF terminals. To determine whether the N and P/Q channels were regulated by GABA(B)R activation, we analyzed the action of the toxins in the presence of baclofen. Interestingly, baclofen occluded omega-conotoxin GVIA action by approximately 50% without affecting omega-agatoxin IVA inhibition, indicating that the N-type channels are the target of GABA(B)Rs. Lastly, the mechanism underlying this effect was further assessed by inhibiting G-proteins with N-ethylmaleimide (NEM). Our data show that EPSP depression caused by baclofen was prevented by NEM, suggesting that GABA(B)Rs inhibit N-type channels via G-protein activation.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Afferent Pathways / drug effects
  • Afferent Pathways / physiology*
  • Afferent Pathways / radiation effects
  • Animals
  • Baclofen / pharmacology
  • Calcium Channel Blockers / pharmacology
  • Calcium Channels / drug effects
  • Calcium Channels / physiology*
  • Dose-Response Relationship, Drug
  • Drug Interactions
  • Electric Stimulation / methods
  • Enzyme Inhibitors / pharmacology
  • Ethylmaleimide / pharmacology
  • Excitatory Postsynaptic Potentials / drug effects
  • Excitatory Postsynaptic Potentials / physiology*
  • GABA Agonists / pharmacology
  • In Vitro Techniques
  • Motor Neurons / drug effects
  • Motor Neurons / metabolism*
  • Neural Inhibition / drug effects
  • Neural Inhibition / physiology
  • Patch-Clamp Techniques
  • Receptors, GABA-B / physiology*
  • Spinal Cord / cytology*
  • Turtles / anatomy & histology
  • omega-Agatoxin IVA / pharmacology


  • Calcium Channel Blockers
  • Calcium Channels
  • Enzyme Inhibitors
  • GABA Agonists
  • Receptors, GABA-B
  • omega-Agatoxin IVA
  • Baclofen
  • Ethylmaleimide