Development of dendritic tonic GABAergic inhibition regulates excitability and plasticity in CA1 pyramidal neurons

J Neurophysiol. 2014 Jul 15;112(2):287-99. doi: 10.1152/jn.00066.2014. Epub 2014 Apr 23.


Synaptic plasticity rules change during development: while hippocampal synapses can be potentiated by a single action potential pairing protocol in young neurons, mature neurons require burst firing to induce synaptic potentiation. An essential component for spike timing-dependent plasticity is the backpropagating action potential (BAP). BAP along the dendrites can be modulated by morphology and ion channel composition, both of which change during late postnatal development. However, it is unclear whether these dendritic changes can explain the developmental changes in synaptic plasticity induction rules. Here, we show that tonic GABAergic inhibition regulates dendritic action potential backpropagation in adolescent, but not preadolescent, CA1 pyramidal neurons. These developmental changes in tonic inhibition also altered the induction threshold for spike timing-dependent plasticity in adolescent neurons. This GABAergic regulatory effect on backpropagation is restricted to distal regions of apical dendrites (>200 μm) and mediated by α5-containing GABA(A) receptors. Direct dendritic recordings demonstrate α5-mediated tonic GABA(A) currents in adolescent neurons which can modulate BAPs. These developmental modulations in dendritic excitability could not be explained by concurrent changes in dendritic morphology. To explain our data, model simulations propose a distally increasing or localized distal expression of dendritic α5 tonic inhibition in mature neurons. Overall, our results demonstrate that dendritic integration and plasticity in more mature dendrites are significantly altered by tonic α5 inhibition in a dendritic region-specific and developmentally regulated manner.

Keywords: CA1 hippocampus; STDP; alpha 5 GABA(A) receptor subunit; backpropagation; dendrite.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Action Potentials*
  • Animals
  • CA1 Region, Hippocampal / cytology
  • CA1 Region, Hippocampal / growth & development
  • CA1 Region, Hippocampal / metabolism
  • CA1 Region, Hippocampal / physiology*
  • Dendrites / drug effects
  • Dendrites / metabolism
  • Dendrites / physiology*
  • Dendrites / ultrastructure
  • Excitatory Postsynaptic Potentials
  • GABA Agonists / pharmacology
  • GABA Antagonists / pharmacology*
  • Inhibitory Postsynaptic Potentials
  • Male
  • Neuronal Plasticity*
  • Pyramidal Cells / drug effects
  • Pyramidal Cells / growth & development
  • Pyramidal Cells / metabolism
  • Pyramidal Cells / physiology*
  • Rats
  • Rats, Wistar
  • Receptors, GABA-A / metabolism


  • GABA Agonists
  • GABA Antagonists
  • Receptors, GABA-A