Astrocytes play important roles in brain function via dynamic structural and functional interactions with neurons. Yet the underlying mechanisms remain poorly defined. A typical feature of astrocytes is the high expression of connexins, which mediate their extensive intercellular communication and regulate their structural properties. In particular, connexin 30 (Cx30), one of the two connexins abundantly expressed by astrocytes, was recently shown to be a critical regulator of excitatory synaptic transmission by controlling the astroglial coverage of synapses. However, the role of Cx30 in the regulation of inhibitory synaptic transmission and excitatory/inhibitory balance remains elusive. Here, we investigated the role of astroglial Cx30 on the electrophysiological and morphological properties of five classes of hippocampal CA1 stratum oriens and pyramidale neurons, defined by the unsupervised Ward's clustering. Using Cx30 knockout mice, we found that Cx30 alters specific properties of some subsets of CA1 interneurons, such as resting membrane potential and sag ratio, while other parameters, such as action potential threshold and saturation frequency, were more frequently altered among the different classes of neurons. The excitation-inhibition balance was also differentially and selectively modulated among the different neuron subtypes. Only slight morphological differences were observed on reconstructed neurons. Altogether, these data indicate that Cx30 differentially alters the electrophysiological and morphological properties of hippocampal cell populations, and modulates both their excitatory and inhibitory inputs. Astrocytes, via Cx30, are thus active modulators of both excitatory and inhibitory synapses in the hippocampus.
Keywords: astrocytes; connexin 30; excitation-inhibition balance; hippocampus; neuroglial interactions; patch-clamp; synaptic transmission.
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