Electrophysiological characteristics of inhibitory neurons of the prepositus hypoglossi nucleus as analyzed in Venus-expressing transgenic rats

Neuroscience. 2011 Dec 1:197:89-98. doi: 10.1016/j.neuroscience.2011.09.017. Epub 2011 Sep 16.


The identification and characterization of excitatory and inhibitory neurons are significant steps in understanding neural network functions. In this study, we investigated the intrinsic electrophysiological properties of neurons in the prepositus hypoglossi nucleus (PHN), a brainstem structure that is involved in gaze holding, using whole-cell recordings in brainstem slices from vesicular GABA transporter (VGAT)-Venus transgenic rats, in which inhibitory neurons express the fluorescent protein Venus. To characterize the intrinsic properties of these neurons, we recorded afterhyperpolarization (AHP) profiles and firing patterns from Venus-expressing [Venus⁺] and Venus-non-expressing [Venus⁻] PHN neurons. Although both types of neurons showed a wide variety of AHP profiles and firing patterns, oscillatory firing was specific to Venus⁺ neurons, while a firing pattern showing only a few spikes was specific to Venus⁻ neurons. In addition, AHPs without a slow component and delayed spike generation were preferentially displayed by Venus⁺ neurons, whereas a firing pattern with constant interspike intervals was preferentially displayed by Venus⁻ neurons. We evaluated the mRNAs expression of glutamate decarboxylase (GAD65, GAD67) and glycine transporter 2 (GlyT2) to determine whether the recorded Venus⁺ neurons were GABAergic or glycinergic. Of the 67 Venus⁺ neurons tested, GlyT2 expression alone was detected in only one neuron. Approximately 40% (28/67) expressed GAD65 and/or GAD67 (GABAergic neuron), and the remainder (38/67) expressed both GAD(s) and GlyT2 (GABA&GLY neuron). These results suggest that most inhibitory PHN neurons use either GABA or both GABA and glycine as neurotransmitters. Although the overall distribution of firing patterns in GABAergic neurons was similar to that of GABA&GLY neurons, only GABA&GLY neurons exhibited a firing pattern with a long first interspike interval. These differential electrophysiological properties will be useful for the identification of specific types of PHN neurons.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Bacterial Proteins
  • Brain Stem / cytology
  • Brain Stem / metabolism*
  • Glycine / metabolism
  • In Situ Hybridization
  • Luminescent Proteins
  • Neurons / cytology*
  • Neurons / metabolism*
  • Organ Culture Techniques
  • Patch-Clamp Techniques
  • Rats
  • Rats, Transgenic
  • Reverse Transcriptase Polymerase Chain Reaction
  • gamma-Aminobutyric Acid / metabolism


  • Bacterial Proteins
  • Luminescent Proteins
  • yellow fluorescent protein, Bacteria
  • gamma-Aminobutyric Acid
  • Glycine