Hypothalamic magnocellular neuroendocrine cells have unique electrical properties and a remarkable capacity for morphological and synaptic plasticity. Their large somatic size, their relatively uniform and dense clustering in the supraoptic and paraventricular nuclei, and their large axon terminals in the neurohypophysis make them an attractive target for direct electrophysiological interrogation. Here, we provide a brief review of significant recent findings in the neuroplasticity and neurophysiological properties of these neurones that were presented at the symposium "Electrophysiology of Magnocellular Neurons" during the 13th World Congress on Neurohypophysial Hormones in Ein Gedi, Israel in April 2019. Magnocellular vasopressin (VP) neurones respond directly to hypertonic stimulation with membrane depolarisation, which is triggered by cell shrinkage-induced opening of an N-terminal-truncated variant of transient receptor potential vanilloid type-1 (TRPV1) channels. New findings indicate that this mechanotransduction depends on actin and microtubule cytoskeletal networks, and that direct coupling of the TRPV1 channels to microtubules is responsible for mechanical gating of the channels. Vasopressin neurones also respond to osmostimulation by activation of epithelial Na+ channels (ENaC). It was shown recently that changes in ENaC activity modulate magnocellular neurone basal firing by generating tonic changes in membrane potential. Both oxytocin and VP neurones also undergo robust excitatory synapse plasticity during chronic osmotic stimulation. Recent findings indicate that new glutamate synapses induced during chronic salt loading express highly labile Ca2+ -permeable GluA1 receptors requiring continuous dendritic protein synthesis for synapse maintenance. Finally, recordings from the uniquely tractable neurohypophysial terminals recently revealed an unexpected property of activity-dependent neuropeptide release. A significant fraction of the voltage-dependent neurohypophysial neurosecretion was found to be independent of Ca2+ influx through voltage-gated Ca2+ channels. Together, these findings provide a snapshot of significant new advances in the electrophysiological signalling mechanisms and neuroplasticity of the hypothalamic-neurohypophysial system, a system that continues to make important contributions to the field of neurophysiology.
Keywords: neuroplasticity; neurosecretion; osmoregulation; oxytocin; vasopressin.
© 2020 British Society for Neuroendocrinology.