It has been known for a long time that inositol-trisphosphate (IP3) receptors are present in the axon of certain types of mammalian neurons, but their functional role has remained unexplored. Here we show that localized photolysis of IP3 induces spatially constrained calcium rises in Purkinje cell axons. Confocal immunohistology reveals that the axon initial segment (AIS), as well as terminals onto deep cerebellar cells, express specific subtypes of Gα/q and phospholipase C (PLC) molecules, together with the upstream purinergic receptor P2Y1. By contrast, intermediate parts of the axon express another set of Gα/q and PLC molecules, indicating two spatially segregated signaling cascades linked to IP3 generation. This prompted a search for distinct actions of IP3 in different parts of Purkinje cell axons. In the AIS, we found that local applications of the specific P2Y1R agonist MRS2365 led to calcium elevation, and that IP3 photolysis led to inhibition of action potential firing. In synaptic terminals on deep cerebellar nuclei neurons, we found that photolysis of both IP3 and ATP led to GABA release. We propose that axonal IP3 receptors can inhibit action potential firing and increase neurotransmitter release, and that these effects are likely controlled by purinergic receptors. Altogether our results suggest a rich and diverse functional role of IP3 receptors in axons of mammalian neurons.
Keywords: IP3; axon; calcium; cerebellum; excitability.