Developmental regulation and neuroprotective effects of striatal tonic GABAA currents

Neuroscience. 2010 May 19;167(3):644-55. doi: 10.1016/j.neuroscience.2010.02.048. Epub 2010 Mar 3.


Striatal neurons are known to express GABA(A) receptor subunits that underlie both phasic and tonic inhibition. Striatal projection neurons, or medium spiny neurons (MSNs), are divided into two classes: MSNs containing the dopamine D1 receptor (D1-MSNs) form the direct pathway to the substantia nigra and facilitate movement while MSNs expressing the dopamine D2 receptor (D2-MSNs) form the pallidal pathway that inhibits movement. Consequently, modulating inhibition in distinct classes of MSNs will differentially impact downstream network activity and motor behavior. Given the powerful role of extrasynaptic inhibition in controlling neuronal excitability, we examined the nature of striatal tonic inhibition and its potential role in preventing excitotoxicity. Consistent with earlier studies in young (P16-P25) mice, tonic GABA currents in D2-MSNs were larger than in D1-MSNs. However, with age (>P30 mice) the tonic GABA currents increased in D1-MSNs but decreased in D2-MSNs. These data demonstrate a developmental switch in the MSN subtype expressing larger tonic GABA currents. Compared to wild-type, MSNs from adult mice lacking the GABA(A)R delta subunit (Gabrd(-/-) mice) had both decreased tonic GABA currents and reduced survival following an in vitro excitotoxic challenge with quinolinic acid. Furthermore, muscimol-induced tonic GABA currents were accompanied by reduced acute swelling of striatal neurons after exposure to NMDA in WT mice but not in Gabrd(-/-) mice. Our data are consistent with a role for tonic inhibition mediated by GABA(A)R delta subunits in neuroprotection against excitotoxic insults in the adult striatum.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cell Size / drug effects
  • Corpus Striatum / cytology
  • Corpus Striatum / growth & development*
  • Corpus Striatum / metabolism*
  • Cytoprotection / physiology*
  • Excitatory Amino Acid Agonists / pharmacology
  • GABA Agonists / pharmacology
  • Male
  • Mice
  • Mice, Knockout
  • Mice, Transgenic
  • Muscimol / pharmacology
  • N-Methylaspartate / pharmacology
  • Neurons / metabolism*
  • Neurotoxins / antagonists & inhibitors
  • Neurotoxins / metabolism
  • Organ Culture Techniques
  • Protein Subunits / chemistry
  • Protein Subunits / genetics
  • Protein Subunits / metabolism
  • Receptors, GABA-A / chemistry
  • Receptors, GABA-A / genetics
  • Receptors, GABA-A / metabolism*
  • gamma-Aminobutyric Acid / metabolism*


  • Excitatory Amino Acid Agonists
  • GABA Agonists
  • Neurotoxins
  • Protein Subunits
  • Receptors, GABA-A
  • Muscimol
  • gamma-Aminobutyric Acid
  • N-Methylaspartate