Glutamatergic and gabaergic ventral BNST neurons differ in their physiological properties and responsiveness to noradrenaline

Neuropsychopharmacology. 2018 Sep;43(10):2126-2133. doi: 10.1038/s41386-018-0070-4. Epub 2018 Apr 20.


The bed nucleus of the stria terminalis (BNST) regulates defensive responses to threats and its anteroventral portion (BNST-AV) is involved. BNST-AV contains a minority of glutamatergic neurons scattered among a dominant population of GABAergic cells. There is evidence that these two cell types might exert opposite influences, the former promoting and the latter reducing anxiety. Although GABAergic cells greatly outnumber glutamatergic neurons in BNST-AV, in some circumstances the influence of glutamatergic cells appears to predominate. Related to this, BNST-AV receives a very strong noradrenaline (NA) input and negative emotional states are associated with a marked rise of NA concentration in BNST-AV. However, it is currently unclear whether NA differentially alters the excitability of glutamatergic and GABAergic BNST-AV neurons. Thus, to shed light on how BNST-AV regulates negative emotional states, the present study compared the physiological properties and NA responsiveness of glutamatergic and GABAergic BNST-AV neurons using whole-cell recordings in transgenic mice that express a fluorescent reporter in either cell group. We found that glutamatergic cells had a slightly more complex morphology than the GABAergic cells, a higher intrinsic excitability, and a different responsiveness to NA. Indeed, while NA inhibited EPSPs in both cell types through α1 and α2 adrenoreceptors, the EPSP reduction seen in glutamatergic cells had a lower amplitude and a shorter duration than in GABAergic cells. These differences were due to the presence of a β-receptor-mediated EPSP enhancement in the glutamatergic cells. Together, our results suggest that multiple properties contribute to the disproportionate influence of glutamatergic BNST-AV neurons.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Adrenergic alpha-Agonists / pharmacology*
  • Animals
  • Electrophysiological Phenomena / drug effects
  • Excitatory Postsynaptic Potentials / drug effects
  • Female
  • GABAergic Neurons / physiology*
  • Glutamic Acid / physiology*
  • Male
  • Mice
  • Mice, Transgenic
  • Neurons / drug effects
  • Neurons / physiology*
  • Neurons / ultrastructure
  • Norepinephrine / pharmacology*
  • Patch-Clamp Techniques
  • Receptors, Adrenergic, alpha-1 / drug effects
  • Receptors, Adrenergic, alpha-2 / drug effects
  • Septal Nuclei / cytology*
  • Septal Nuclei / drug effects
  • Septal Nuclei / physiology*


  • Adrenergic alpha-Agonists
  • Receptors, Adrenergic, alpha-1
  • Receptors, Adrenergic, alpha-2
  • Glutamic Acid
  • Norepinephrine