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Keywords:

  • glycine receptor;
  • inhibitory synapse;
  • presynaptic terminal;
  • spasticity

Abstract

In the hypoglossal nucleus of wild-type mice, early mixed glycinergic-GABAergic inhibitory transmission becomes mainly glycinergic during postnatal maturation. In spastic mice (SPA), a model of human hyperekplexic syndrome, an insertion into the gene of the glycine receptor (GlyR) β subunit results in a decreased accumulation of GlyRs at postsynaptic sites and an impaired glycinergic neurotransmission. In SPA mice displaying a mild phenotype (B6C3Fe strain), a compensatory process involving an increased aggregation of GABAA receptors (GABAARs) at postsynaptic sites was proposed to explain survival of mutant animals until adulthood. However, C57BL/6J strain SPA mice which express a lower amount of GlyR β subunit die 2–3 weeks after birth, suggesting that GABAergic compensation does not necessarily take place. We performed a morphofunctional study of inhibitory synapses in the developing hypoglossal nucleus of C57BL/6J SPA mice. In this mutant, the inhibitory synaptic activity was mainly GABAergic. Accordingly, we observed a developmental loss of glycinergic presynaptic terminals and an increase in the density of GABAergic presynaptic terminals during the first two postnatal weeks. In addition, while C57BL/6J SPA mice displayed a strong impairment in GlyR aggregation at postsynaptic loci, the proportion of inhibitory presynaptic terminals facing diffuse GABAARs significantly increased during development. Our results suggest crosstalk between postsynaptic and presynaptic elements, leading to the developmental regulation of the presynaptic terminal neurotransmitter content according to the level of postsynaptic GlyR aggregation. They also indicate that GABAergic neurotransmission does not compensate for defects in GlyR postsynaptic aggregation leading to spastic syndrome in C57BL/6J SPA mice.