Embryonic rat hippocampal neurons and GABAA receptor subunit-transfected non-neuronal cells release GABA tonically

J Membr Biol. 1998 Aug 1;164(3):239-51. doi: 10.1007/s002329900409.


We used patch-clamp recording techniques to investigate the contribution of GABA to baseline membrane properties in cultured embryonic rat hippocampal neurons. Almost all of the neurons recorded with Cl--filled pipettes and clamped at negative potentials exhibited baselines that were noticeably noisy, with microscopic fluctuations superimposed on the macroscopic holding current. A gentle steam of saline applied to the neuronal surface rapidly and reversibly reduced the baseline current and fluctuations, both of which were completely eliminated by bicuculline. Fluctuation analysis showed that the variance in the baseline current signal was exponentially distributed with estimated kinetics comparable to those activated by submicromolar concentrations of exogenous GABA. The kinetics of Cl- channels activated by endogenous GABA displayed a potential sensitivity comparable to those activated by exogenous GABA. Non-neuronal cells stably transfected with alpha1 and gamma2 GABAA receptor subunits exhibited little baseline current variance when recorded with Cl--filled pipettes. Addition of micromolar GABA to the extracellular saline or to the pipette solution induced a saline- and bicuculline-sensitive baseline current signal comparable to that recorded in hippocampal neurons. Thus, both intra- and extracellular sources of GABA could contribute to the baseline properties recorded in these cultured neurons.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Bicuculline / pharmacology
  • Cell Line
  • Cells, Cultured
  • Chloride Channels / drug effects
  • Chloride Channels / metabolism*
  • GABA Antagonists / pharmacology
  • Hippocampus / drug effects
  • Hippocampus / embryology
  • Hippocampus / metabolism*
  • Humans
  • Membrane Potentials
  • Neurons / drug effects
  • Neurons / metabolism*
  • Patch-Clamp Techniques
  • Picrotoxin / pharmacology
  • Rats
  • Receptors, GABA-A / drug effects
  • Receptors, GABA-A / genetics
  • Receptors, GABA-A / metabolism*
  • Sodium Chloride / pharmacology
  • Transfection
  • gamma-Aminobutyric Acid / metabolism*
  • gamma-Aminobutyric Acid / pharmacology


  • Chloride Channels
  • GABA Antagonists
  • Receptors, GABA-A
  • Picrotoxin
  • Sodium Chloride
  • gamma-Aminobutyric Acid
  • Bicuculline