Formation of mixed glycine and GABAergic synapses in cultured spinal cord neurons

Authors

  • A. Dumoulin,

    1. Laboratoire de Biologie Cellulaire de la Synapse – Inserm U 497, Ecole Normale Supérieure, 46 rue d'Ulm, 75005 Paris, France
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    • *These two authors contributed equally to this work.
  • S. Lévi,

    1. Laboratoire de Biologie Cellulaire de la Synapse – Inserm U 497, Ecole Normale Supérieure, 46 rue d'Ulm, 75005 Paris, France
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    • *These two authors contributed equally to this work.
  • B. Riveau,

    1. Laboratoire de Biologie Cellulaire de la Synapse – Inserm U 497, Ecole Normale Supérieure, 46 rue d'Ulm, 75005 Paris, France
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  • B. Gasnier,

    1. CNRS UPR 1929, Institut de Biologie Physico-Chimique, 13 rue Pierre et Marie Curie, 75005 Paris, France
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  • A. Triller

    1. Laboratoire de Biologie Cellulaire de la Synapse – Inserm U 497, Ecole Normale Supérieure, 46 rue d'Ulm, 75005 Paris, France
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: Dr A. Triller, as above.
Email: triller@wotan.ens.fr

Abstract

In the spinal cord, GABA and glycine mediate inhibition at separate or mixed synapses containing glycine and/or GABAA receptors (GlyR and GABAAR, respectively). We have analysed here the sequence of events leading to inhibitory synapse formation during synaptogenesis of embryonic spinal cord neurons between 1 and 11 days in vitro (DIV). We used immunocytochemical methods to detect simultaneously an antigen specific to inhibitory terminals, the vesicular inhibitory amino acid transporter (VIAAT), and one of the following postsynaptic elements: GlyR, GABAAR or gephyrin, the anchoring protein of GlyR, which is also associated with GABAAR. Quantitative analysis revealed that until 5 DIV most gephyrin clusters were not adjacent to VIAAT-positive profiles, but became associated with them at later stages. In contrast, GlyR and GABAAR clustered predominantly in front of VIAAT-containing terminals at all stages. However, about 10% of receptor aggregates were detected at nonsynaptic loci. The two receptors colocalized in 66.2 ± 2.5% of the inhibitory postsynaptic domains after 11 DIV, while 30.3 ± 2.6% and 3.4 ± 0.8% of them contained only GlyR and GABAAR, respectively. Interestingly, at 3 DIV GABAAR clustered at a postsynaptic location prior to gephyrin and GlyR; GABAAR could thus be the initiating element in the construction of mixed glycine and GABAergic synapses. The late colocalization of gephyrin with GABAAR, and the demonstration by other groups that, in the absence of gephyrin, postsynaptic GABAAR is not detected, suggest that gephyrin is involved in the stabilization of GABAAR rather than in its initial accumulation at synaptic sites.

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