Presynaptic GABAB Receptors Regulate Hippocampal Synapses during Associative Learning in Behaving Mice

PLoS One. 2016 Feb 5;11(2):e0148800. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0148800. eCollection 2016.


GABAB receptors are the G-protein-coupled receptors for GABA, the main inhibitory neurotransmitter in the central nervous system. Pharmacological activation of GABAB receptors regulates neurotransmission and neuronal excitability at pre- and postsynaptic sites. Electrophysiological activation of GABAB receptors in brain slices generally requires strong stimulus intensities. This raises the question as to whether behavioral stimuli are strong enough to activate GABAB receptors. Here we show that GABAB1a-/- mice, which constitutively lack presynaptic GABAB receptors at glutamatergic synapses, are impaired in their ability to acquire an operant learning task. In vivo recordings during the operant conditioning reveal a deficit in learning-dependent increases in synaptic strength at CA3-CA1 synapses. Moreover, GABAB1a-/- mice fail to synchronize neuronal activity in the CA1 area during the acquisition process. Our results support that activation of presynaptic hippocampal GABAB receptors is important for acquisition of a learning task and for learning-associated synaptic changes and network dynamics.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Association Learning / physiology*
  • CA1 Region, Hippocampal / metabolism
  • CA3 Region, Hippocampal / metabolism
  • Conditioning, Operant
  • Hippocampus / metabolism*
  • Long-Term Potentiation
  • Male
  • Mice
  • Mice, Knockout
  • Models, Animal
  • Neuronal Plasticity
  • Pyramidal Cells / physiology
  • Receptors, GABA-B / metabolism*
  • Receptors, Presynaptic / metabolism*
  • Synapses / metabolism*
  • Synaptic Potentials


  • Receptors, GABA-B
  • Receptors, Presynaptic

Grant support

This study was supported by grants from the Spanish Ministry of Economy and Competitiveness (BFU2014-56692-R) to AG and JMD-G, and from the Swiss National Science Foundation (3100A0-117816) to BB, and a grant from the European Community’s Seventh Framework Program (FP7/2007-2013) under grant agreement N° 201714 (DEVANX) to AG, JMD-G, and BB.