The effect of capsaicin on glycinergic synaptic transmission to juvenile rat hypoglossal motor neurons in acute brainstem slices was evaluated in the presence of TTX. Capsaicin caused a robust decrease in miniature IPSC frequency, amplitude, and half-width, showing that this effect is independent of action potential generation. In the presence of capsazepine, a classic TRPV1 antagonist, capsaicin was still able to reduce spontaneous inhibitory postsynaptic current (IPSC) amplitude and frequency. We further investigated whether the effect of capsaicin on glycinergic transmission to hypoglossal motor neurons is pre- or postsynaptic in nature by recording pairs of evoked IPSCs. Interestingly, capsaicin also reduced evoked IPSC amplitude without affecting paired-pulse ratio, indicating a postsynaptic mechanism of action. Significant reduction was also observed in evoked IPSC half-width, rise time, and decay tau. We also show that capsaicin does not have any effect on either transient (It) or sustained (Is) potassium currents. Finally, we also show that the hyperpolarization-activated cationic current (Ih) also remains unchanged after capsaicin application. NEW & NOTEWORTHY Capsaicin reduces the amplitude of quantal and evoked glycinergic inhibitory neurotransmission to brainstem motor neurons without altering activity-dependent transmitter release. This effect of capsaicin is not due to activation of TRPV1 receptors, as it is not blocked by capsazepine, a TRPV1 receptor antagonist. Capsaicin does not alter voltage-dependent potassium current or the hyperpolarization-activated cationic current in brainstem motor neurons.
Keywords: capsaicin; glycinergic neurotransmission; hyperpolarization-activated cationic current; hypoglossal motor neuron; potassium current.