Study objectives: Low-threshold voltage-gated T-type Ca(2+) channels (T-channels or CaV3 channels) sustain oscillatory discharges of thalamocortical (TC) and nucleus Reticularis thalami (nRt) cells. The CaV3.3 subtype dominates nRt rhythmic bursting and mediates a substantial fraction of spindle power in the NREM sleep EEG. CaV3.2 channels are also found in nRt, but whether these contribute to nRt-dependent spindle generation is unexplored. We investigated thalamic rhythmogenesis in mice lacking this subtype in isolation (CaV3.2KO mice) or in concomitance with CaV3.3 deletion (CaV3.double-knockout (DKO) mice).
Methods: We examined discharge characteristics of thalamic cells and intrathalamic evoked synaptic transmission in brain slices from wild-type, CaV3.2KO and CaV3.DKO mice through patch-clamp recordings. The sleep profile of freely behaving CaV3.2KO and CaV3.DKO mice was assessed by polysomnographic recordings.
Results: CaV3.2 channel deficiency left nRt discharge properties largely unaltered, but additional deletion of CaV3.3 channels fully abolished low-threshold whole-cell Ca(2+) currents and bursting, and suppressed burst-mediated inhibitory responses in TC cells. CaV3.DKO mice had more fragmented sleep, with shorter NREM sleep episodes and more frequent microarousals. The NREM sleep EEG power spectrum displayed a relative suppression of the σ frequency band (10-15 Hz), which was accompanied by an increase in the δ band (1-4 Hz).
Conclusions: Consistent with previous findings, CaV3.3 channels dominate nRt rhythmogenesis, but the lack of CaV3.2 channels further aggravates neuronal, synaptic, and EEG deficits. Therefore, CaV3.2 channels can boost intrathalamic synaptic transmission, and might play a modulatory role adjusting the relative presence of NREM sleep EEG rhythms.
Keywords: nucleus Reticularis thalami; sleep architecture; sleep spindles.
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