Tonic mGluR5/CB1-dependent suppression of inhibition as a pathophysiological hallmark in the striatum of mice carrying a mutant form of huntingtin

J Physiol. 2013 Feb 15;591(4):1145-66. doi: 10.1113/jphysiol.2012.241018. Epub 2012 Dec 10.


Changes in the activity of striatal output neurons (SONs) have been implicated in the pathogenesis of Huntington's disease (HD). In this inherited polyglutamine disorder, accumulation of intracellular toxins causes a variety of deficits, including synaptic dysfunction, but it is still unclear to what extent striatal GABA release is afflicted as well. Two murine HD models were used, a recently created knock-in mouse (Z_Q175_KI) and an established model of HD (R6/2). In sagittal slices with relatively well-preserved glutamatergic connections throughout the basal ganglia, we have characterized the following: (i) the excitability of SONs; (ii) their spontaneous action potential-dependent GABAergic synaptic activity; (iii) the capacity of exogenous GABA to inhibit spontaneous action potential generation; and (iv) the properties of GABAergic unitary evoked responses (eIPSCs) in response to intrastriatal minimal stimulation at low and high frequency. The HD SONs exhibited enhanced intrisic excitability and higher levels of GABAergic spontaneous activity without presenting evidence for homeostatic upregulation of endogenous or exogenous GABA actions. Unitary eIPSC amplitudes were reduced, with a clear deficit in the probability of release, as indicated by a higher paired-pulse ratio, failure rate and coefficient of variation. In conditions of high-frequency activation, GABAergic connections of HD SONs were prone to asynchronous release and delayed IPSC generation at the expense of synchronized release. Both in wild-type and in HD SONs, GABA was inhibitory. Our results support the conclusion that the enhanced spontaneous synaptic activity in the HD striatum reflects disinhibition. Pharmacological tests identified the HD-related tonic suppression of synaptic inhibition as a glutamate- and endocannabinoid-dependent process.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Corpus Striatum / physiology*
  • Huntingtin Protein
  • Huntington Disease / physiopathology*
  • In Vitro Techniques
  • Membrane Potentials
  • Mice
  • Mice, Transgenic
  • Mutation
  • Nerve Tissue Proteins / physiology*
  • Neurons / physiology
  • Nuclear Proteins / physiology*
  • Receptor, Cannabinoid, CB1 / physiology*
  • Receptor, Metabotropic Glutamate 5
  • Receptors, Metabotropic Glutamate / physiology*
  • gamma-Aminobutyric Acid / physiology


  • Grm5 protein, mouse
  • Htt protein, mouse
  • Huntingtin Protein
  • Nerve Tissue Proteins
  • Nuclear Proteins
  • Receptor, Cannabinoid, CB1
  • Receptor, Metabotropic Glutamate 5
  • Receptors, Metabotropic Glutamate
  • gamma-Aminobutyric Acid