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Journal of Physiology
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Exposure to cocaine regulates inhibitory synaptic transmission from the ventral tegmental area to the nucleus accumbens
Synaptic projections from the ventral tegmental area (VTA) to the nucleus accumbens (NAc) make up the backbone of the brain reward pathway, a neural circuit that mediates behavioural responses elicited by natural rewards as well as by cocaine and other drugs of abuse. In addition to the well-known modulatory dopaminergic projection, the VTA also provides fast excitatory and inhibitory synaptic input to the NAc, directly regulating NAc medium spiny neurons (MSNs). However, the cellular nature of VTA-to-NAc fast synaptic transmission and its roles in drug-induced adaptations are not well understood. Using viral-mediated in vivo expression of channelrhodopsin 2, the present study dissected fast excitatory and inhibitory synaptic transmission from the VTA to NAc MSNs in rats. Our results suggest that, following repeated exposure to cocaine (15 mg kg–1 day–1 x 5 days, i.p., 1 or 21 day withdrawal), a presynaptic enhancement of excitatory transmission and suppression of inhibitory transmission occurred at different withdrawal time points at VTA-to-NAc core synapses. In contrast, no postsynaptic alterations were detected at either type of synapse. These results suggest that changes in VTA-to-NAc fast excitatory and inhibitory synaptic transmissions may contribute to cocaine-induced alteration of the brain reward circuitry.
Ba2+- and bupivacaine-sensitive background K+ conductances mediate rapid EPSP attenuation in oligodendrocyte precursor cells
Glutamatergic transmission onto oligodendrocyte precursor cells (OPCs) may regulate OPC proliferation, migration and differentiation. Dendritic integration of excitatory postsynaptic potentials (EPSPs) is critical for neuronal functions, and mechanisms regulating dendritic propagation and summation of EPSPs are well understood. However, little is known about EPSP attenuation and integration in OPCs. We developed realistic OPC models for synaptic integration, based on passive membrane responses of OPCs obtained by simultaneous dual whole-cell patch-pipette recordings. Compared with neurons, OPCs have a very low value of membrane resistivity, which is largely mediated by Ba2+- and bupivacaine-sensitive background K+ conductances. The very low membrane resistivity not only leads to rapid EPSP attenuation along OPC processes but also sharpens EPSPs and narrows the temporal window for EPSP summation. Thus, background K+ conductances regulate synaptic responses and integration in OPCs, thereby affecting activity-dependent neuronal control of OPC development and function.
Segmentation of the mouse fourth deep lumbrical muscle connectome reveals concentric organisation of motor units
Connectomic analysis of the nervous system aims to discover and establish principles that underpin normal and abnormal neural connectivity and function. Here we performed image analysis of motor unit connectivity in the fourth deep lumbrical muscle (4DL) of mice, using transgenic expression of fluorescent protein in motor neurones as a morphological reporter. We developed a method that accelerated segmentation of confocal image projections of 4DL motor units, by applying high resolution (63x, 1.4 NA objective) imaging or deconvolution only where either proved necessary, in order to resolve axon crossings that produced ambiguities in the correct assignment of axon terminals to identified motor units imaged at lower optical resolution (40x, 1.3 NA). The 4DL muscles contained between 4 and 9 motor units and motor unit sizes ranged in distribution from 3 to 111 motor nerve terminals per unit. Several structural properties of the motor units were consistent with those reported in other muscles, including suboptimal wiring length and distribution of motor unit size. Surprisingly, however, small motor units were confined to a region of the muscle near the nerve entry point, whereas their larger counterparts were progressively more widely dispersed, suggesting a previously unrecognised form of segregated motor innervation in this muscle. We also found small but significant differences in variance of motor endplate length in motor units, which correlated weakly with their motor unit size. Thus, our connectomic analysis has revealed a pattern of concentric innervation that may perhaps also exist in other, cylindrical muscles that have not previously been thought to show segregated motor unit organisation. This organisation may be the outcome of competition during postnatal development based on intrinsic neuronal differences in synaptic size or synaptic strength that generates a territorial hierarchy in motor unit size and disposition.
Modulation of synaptic depression of the calyx of Held synapse by GABAB receptors and spontaneous activity
The calyx of Held synapse of the medial nucleus of the trapezoid body is a giant axosomatic synapse in the auditory brainstem, which acts as a relay synapse showing little dependence of its synaptic strength on firing frequency. The main mechanism that is responsible for its resistance to synaptic depression is its large number of release sites with low release probability. Here, we investigated the contribution of presynaptic GABAB receptors and spontaneous activity to release probability both in vivo and in vitro in young-adult mice. Maximal activation of presynaptic GABAB receptors by baclofen reduced synaptic output by about 45% in whole-cell voltage clamp slice recordings, which was accompanied by a reduction in short-term depression. A similar reduction in transmission was observed when baclofen was applied in vivo by microiontophoresis during juxtacellular recordings using piggyback electrodes. No significant change in synaptic transmission was observed during application of the GABAB receptor antagonist CGP54626 both during in vivo and slice recordings, suggesting a low ambient GABA concentration. Interestingly, we observed that synapses with a high spontaneous frequency showed almost no synaptic depression during auditory stimulation, whereas synapses with a low spontaneous frequency did depress during noise bursts. Our data thus suggest that spontaneous firing can tonically reduce release probability in vivo. In addition, our data show that the ambient GABA concentration in the auditory brainstem is too low to activate the GABAB receptor at the calyx of Held significantly, but that activation of GABAB receptors can reduce sound-evoked synaptic depression.
Long- and short-term intravital imaging reveals differential spatiotemporal recruitment and function of myelomonocytic cells after spinal cord injury
After spinal cord injury (SCI), resident and peripheral myelomonocytic cells are recruited to the injury site and play a role in injury progression. These cells are important for clearing cellular debris, and can modulate the retraction and growth of axons in vitro. However, their precise spatiotemporal recruitment dynamics is unknown, and their respective roles after SCI remain heavily debated. Using chronic, quantitative intravital two-photon microscopy of adult mice with SCI, here we show that infiltrating lysozyme M (LysM(+)) and resident CD11c(+) myelomonocytic cells have distinct spatiotemporal recruitment profiles, and exhibit changes in morphology, motility, phagocytic activity and axon interaction patterns over time. This study provides the first in vivo description of the influx of inflammatory and resident myelomonocytic cells into the injured spinal cord and their interactions with cut axons, and underscores the importance of precise timing and targeting of specific cell populations in developing therapies for SCI.
Microcircuit mechanisms involved in paired associative stimulation-induced depression of corticospinal excitability
Synaptic weight changes induced by temporal correlations between the spikes of pre- and postsynaptic neurons are referred to as spike-timing-dependent plasticity (STDP). Transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) induces long-lasting effects on corticospinal excitability, if it is repetitively paired with stimulation of afferents from a corresponding contralateral hand region at short intervals (paired associative stimulation, PAS). PAS-induced plasticity has been linked with synaptic STDP. We aimed to investigate which elements of the cortical microcircuitry sustain and govern PAS-induced depression of corticospinal excitability in the target muscle representation (and enhancement of excitability in its functional surround). We show that the time window during which the interaction between both stimulus-induced cortical events leads to immediate post-interventional depression is short (<4.5 ms). The depressant PAS effects at the target representation were completely blocked by applying a subthreshold magnetic pulse 3 ms before the principal TMS pulse, even when the strength of the latter was adjusted to generate a motor-evoked potential of similar amplitude to that with the unconditioned magnetic pulse. Epidural recordings from the cervical cord of a patient showed that under this condition late TMS-evoked I-waves remain suppressed. When the intensity of the TMS component during PAS was lowered – sufficient to allow activation of inhibitory neurons, but insufficient to activate corticospinal neurons – excitability of short-latency intracortical inhibition remained unchanged. PAS-induced facilitation in the functional surround followed the same pattern as the centre-depressant effects. These findings may suggest that excitability-depressant PAS-induced effects are due to weakening of excitatory synapses between upper cortical layer principal neurons, but not those located on the corticospinal neuron, or inhibitory synapses. Inhibitory interneurons involved in short-latency intracortical inhibition are gate-keepers to producing centre-depressant/surround-facilitatory PAS effects. Based on these and earlier findings we propose a model specifying the composition and laminar location of the involved microcircuit of PAS-induced plasticity that may enhance its utility as a model of STDP in humans.
A strong coordination between the two legs is important for maintaining a symmetric gait pattern and adapting to changes in the external environment. In humans as well as animals, receptors arising from the quadriceps muscle group influence the activation of ipsilateral muscles. Moreover, strong contralateral spinal connections arising from quadriceps and hamstring afferents have been shown in animal models. Therefore, the aims of the present study were to assess if such connections also exist in humans and to elucidate on the possible pathways. Contralateral reflex responses were investigated in the right leg following unexpected unilateral knee joint rotations during locomotion in either the flexion or extension direction. Strong reflex responses in the contralateral biceps femoris (cBF) muscle with a mean onset latency of 76 ± 6 ms were evoked only from ipsilateral knee extension joint rotations in the late stance phase. To investigate the contribution of a transcortical pathway to this response, transcranial magnetic and electrical stimulation were applied. Motor evoked potentials elicited by transcranial magnetic stimulation, but not transcranial electrical stimulation, were facilitated when elicited at the time of the cBF response to a greater extent than the algebraic sum of the cBF reflex and motor evoked potentials elicited separately, indicating that a transcortical pathway probably contributes to this interlimb reflex. The cBF reflex response may therefore be integrated with other sensory input, allowing for responses that are more flexible. We hypothesize that the cBF reflex response may be a preparation of the contralateral leg for early load bearing, slowing the forward progression of the body to maintain dynamic equilibrium during walking.
Airway epithelia absorb Na+ through the epithelial Na+ channel (ENaC) and secrete Cl– through the cystic fibrosis transmembrane conductance regulator (CFTR) anion channel. This balance maintains sufficient airway surface liquid hydration to permit efficient mucus clearance, which is needed to maintain sterility of the lung. Cystic fibrosis (CF) is a common autosomal recessive inherited disease caused by mutations in the CFTR gene that lead to the reduction or elimination of the CFTR protein. CF is a multi-organ disease that affects epithelia lining the intestines, lungs, pancreas, sweat ducts and vas deferens, among others. CF lungs are characterized by viscous, dehydrated mucus, persistent neutrophilia and chronic infections. ENaC is negatively regulated by CFTR and, in patients with CF, the absence of CFTR results in a double hit of reduced Cl–/HCO3– and H2O secretion as well as ENaC hyperactivity and increased Na+ and H2O absorption. Together, these effects are hypothesized to trigger mucus dehydration, resulting in a failure to clear mucus. Rehydrating CF mucus has become a recent clinical focus and yields important end-points for clinical trials. However, while ENaC hyperactivity in CF airways has been detected in vivo and in vitro, recent data have brought the role of ENaC in CF lung disease pathogenesis into question. This review will focus on our current understanding of the contribution of ENaC to CF pathogenesis.
Endosomal and lysosomal membrane trafficking requires the coordination of multiple signalling events to control cargo sorting and processing, and endosome maturation. The initiation and termination of signalling events in endosomes and lysosomes is not well understood, but several key regulators have been identified, which include small GTPases, phosphoinositides, and Ca2+. Small GTPases act as master regulators and molecular switches in a GTP-dependent manner, initiating signalling cascades to regulate the direction and specificity of endosomal trafficking. Phosphoinositides are membrane-bound lipids that indicate vesicular identities for recruiting specific cytoplasmic proteins to endosomal membranes, thus allowing specificity of membrane fusion, fission, and cargo sorting to occur within and between specific vesicle compartments. In addition, phosphoinositides regulate the function of membrane proteins such as ion channels and transporters in a compartment-specific manner to mediate transport and signalling. Finally, Ca2+, a locally acting second messenger released from intracellular ion channels, may provide precise spatiotemporal regulation of endosomal signalling and trafficking events. Small GTPase signalling can regulate phosphoinositide conversion during endosome maturation, and electrophysiological studies on isolated endosomes have shown that endosomal and lysosomal Ca2+ channels are directly modulated by endosomal lipids. Thus trafficking and maturation of endosomes and lysosomes can be precisely regulated by dynamic changes in GTPases and membrane lipids, as well as Ca2+ signalling. Importantly, impaired phosphoinositide and Ca2+ signalling can cause endosomal and lysosomal trafficking defects at the cellular level, and a spectrum of lysosome storage diseases.