Desensitization-resistant and -sensitive GPCR-mediated inhibition of GABA release occurs by Ca2+-dependent and -independent mechanisms at a hypothalamic synapse

J Neurophysiol. 2016 Jun 1;115(5):2376-88. doi: 10.1152/jn.00535.2015. Epub 2016 Feb 24.


Whereas the activation of Gαi/o-coupled receptors commonly results in postsynaptic responses that show acute desensitization, the presynaptic inhibition of transmitter release caused by many Gαi/o-coupled receptors is maintained during agonist exposure. However, an exception has been noted where GABAB receptor (GABABR)-mediated inhibition of inhibitory postsynaptic currents (IPSCs) recorded in mouse proopiomelanocortin (POMC) neurons exhibit acute desensitization in ∼25% of experiments. To determine whether differential effector coupling confers sensitivity to desensitization, voltage-clamp recordings were made from POMC neurons to compare the mechanism by which μ-opioid receptors (MORs) and GABABRs inhibit transmitter release. Neither MOR- nor GABABR-mediated inhibition of release relied on the activation of presynaptic K(+) channels. Both receptors maintained the ability to inhibit release in the absence of external Ca(2+) or in the presence of ionomycin-induced Ca(2+) influx, indicating that inhibition of release can occur through a Ca(2+)-independent mechanism. Replacing Ca(2+) with Sr(2+) to disrupt G-protein-mediated inhibition of release occurring directly at the release machinery did not alter MOR- or GABAB -mediated inhibition of IPSCs, suggesting that reductions in evoked release can occur through the inhibition of Ca(2+) channels. Additionally, both receptors inhibited evoked IPSCs in the presence of selective blockers of N- or P/Q-type Ca(2+) channels. Altogether, the results show that MORs and GABABRs can inhibit transmitter release through the inhibition of calcium influx and by direct actions at the release machinery. Furthermore, since both the desensitizing and nondesensitizing presynaptic receptors are similarly coupled, differential effector coupling is unlikely responsible for differential desensitization of the inhibition of release.

Keywords: GABAB receptor; POMC; calcium; mu opioid receptor; strontium.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Calcium / metabolism*
  • Calcium Channels / metabolism
  • Calcium Signaling
  • GTP-Binding Protein alpha Subunits, Gi-Go / metabolism*
  • Hypothalamus / physiology*
  • Inhibitory Postsynaptic Potentials*
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • Receptors, GABA-B / metabolism*
  • Receptors, Opioid, mu / metabolism
  • Synapses / drug effects
  • Synapses / metabolism
  • Synapses / physiology*
  • gamma-Aminobutyric Acid / metabolism*


  • Calcium Channels
  • Receptors, GABA-B
  • Receptors, Opioid, mu
  • gamma-Aminobutyric Acid
  • GTP-Binding Protein alpha Subunits, Gi-Go
  • Calcium