Chemogenetic Isolation Reveals Synaptic Contribution of δ GABAA Receptors in Mouse Dentate Granule Neurons

J Neurosci. 2018 Sep 19;38(38):8128-8145. doi: 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.0799-18.2018. Epub 2018 Aug 3.


Two major GABAA receptor classes mediate ionotropic GABA signaling, those containing a δ subunit and those with a γ2 subunit. The classical viewpoint equates γ2-containing receptors with IPSCs and δ-containing receptors with tonic inhibition because of differences in receptor localization, but significant questions remain because the populations cannot be pharmacologically separated. We removed this barrier using gene editing to confer a point mutation on the δ subunit in mice, rendering receptors containing the subunit picrotoxin resistant. By pharmacologically isolating δ-containing receptors, our results demonstrate their contribution to IPSCs in dentate granule neurons and weaker contributions to thalamocortical IPSCs. Despite documented extrasynaptic localization, we found that receptor localization does not preclude participation in isolated IPSCs, including mIPSCs. Further, phasic inhibition from δ subunit-containing receptors strongly inhibited summation of EPSPs, whereas tonic activity had little impact. In addition to any role that δ-containing receptors may play in canonical tonic inhibition, our results highlight a previously underestimated contribution of δ-containing receptors to phasic inhibition.SIGNIFICANCE STATEMENT GABAA receptors play key roles in transient and tonic inhibition. The prevailing view suggests that synaptic γ2-containing GABAA receptors drive phasic inhibition, whereas extrasynaptic δ-containing receptors mediate tonic inhibition. To re-evaluate the impact of δ receptors, we took a chemogenetic approach that offers a sensitive method to probe the synaptic contribution of δ-containing receptors. Our results reveal that localization does not strongly limit the contribution of δ receptors to IPSCs and that δ receptors make an unanticipated robust contribution to phasic inhibition.

Keywords: GABA; IPSC; hippocampus; inhibition; picrotoxin; tonic.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Dentate Gyrus / cytology
  • Dentate Gyrus / metabolism*
  • Excitatory Postsynaptic Potentials / physiology
  • Gene Editing
  • Inhibitory Postsynaptic Potentials / physiology
  • Mice
  • Neural Inhibition / physiology
  • Neurons / cytology
  • Neurons / metabolism*
  • Receptors, GABA-A / genetics
  • Receptors, GABA-A / metabolism*
  • Synapses / metabolism*
  • Synaptic Transmission / physiology


  • Receptors, GABA-A