The median raphe region (MRR) is thought to be serotonergic and plays an important role in the regulation of many cognitive functions. In the hippocampus (HIPP), the MRR exerts a fast excitatory control, partially through glutamatergic transmission, on a subpopulation of GABAergic interneurons that are key regulators of local network activity. However, not all receptors of this connection in the HIPP and in synapses established by MRR in other brain areas are known. Using combined anterograde tracing and immunogold methods, we show that the GluN2A subunit of the NMDA receptor is present in the synapses established by MRR not only in the HIPP, but also in the medial septum (MS) and in the medial prefrontal cortex (mPFC) of the mouse. We estimated similar amounts of NMDA receptors in these synapses established by the MRR and in local adjacent excitatory synapses. Using retrograde tracing and confocal laser scanning microscopy, we found that the majority of the projecting cells of the mouse MRR contain the vesicular glutamate transporter type 3 (vGluT3). Furthermore, using double retrograde tracing, we found that single cells of the MRR can innervate the HIPP and mPFC or the MS and mPFC simultaneously, and these double-projecting cells are also predominantly vGluT3-positive. Our results indicate that the majority of the output of the MRR is glutamatergic and acts through NMDA receptor-containing synapses. This suggests that key forebrain areas receive precisely targeted excitatory input from the MRR, which is able to synchronously modify activity in those regions via individual MRR cells with dual projections.
GABAergic inhibition plays a central role in the control of pyramidal cell ensemble activities; thus, any signaling mechanism that regulates inhibition is able to fine-tune network patterns. Here, we provide evidence that the retrograde nitric oxide (NO)-cGMP cascade triggered by NMDA receptor (NMDAR) activation plays a role in the control of hippocampal GABAergic transmission in mice. GABAergic synapses express neuronal nitric oxide synthase (nNOS) postsynaptically and NO receptors (NO-sensitive guanylyl cyclase) in the presynaptic terminals. We hypothesized that--similar to glutamatergic synapses--the Ca(2+) transients required to activate nNOS were provided by NMDA receptor activation. Indeed, administration of 5 ?m NMDA induced a robust nNOS-dependent cGMP production in GABAergic terminals, selectively in the CA1 and CA3c areas. Furthermore, using preembedding, postembedding, and SDS-digested freeze-fracture replica immunogold labeling, we provided quantitative immunocytochemical evidence that NMDAR subunits GluN1, GluN2A, and GluN2B were present in most somatic GABAergic synapses postsynaptically. These data indicate that NMDARs can modulate hippocampal GABAergic inhibition via NO-cGMP signaling in an activity-dependent manner and that this effect is subregion specific in the mouse hippocampus.
Early ?-aminobutyric acid mediated (GABAergic) synaptic transmission and correlated neuronal activity are fundamental to network formation; however, their regulation during early postnatal development is poorly understood. Nitric oxide (NO) is an important retrograde messenger at glutamatergic synapses, and it was recently shown to play an important role also at GABAergic synapses in the adult brain. The subcellular localization and network effect of this signaling pathway during early development are so far unexplored, but its disruption at this early age is known to lead to profound morphological and functional alterations. Here, we provide functional evidence--using whole-cell recording--that NO signaling modulates not only glutamatergic but also GABAergic synaptic transmission in the mouse hippocampus during the early postnatal period. We identified the precise subcellular localization of key elements of the underlying molecular cascade using immunohistochemistry at the light--and electron microscopic levels. As predicted by these morpho-functional data, multineuron calcium imaging in acute slices revealed that this NO-signaling machinery is involved also in the control of synchronous network activity patterns. We suggest that the retrograde NO-signaling system is ideally suited to fulfill a general presynaptic regulatory role and may effectively fine-tune network activity during early postnatal development, while GABAergic transmission is still depolarizing.
GABA (gamma-aminobutyric-acid), the main inhibitory neurotransmitter in the adult brain, exerts depolarizing (excitatory) actions during development and this GABAergic depolarization cooperates with NMDARs (N-methyl-D-aspartate receptors) to drive spontaneous synchronous activity (SSA) that is fundamentally important for developing neuronal networks. Although GABAergic depolarization is known to assist in the activation of NMDARs during development, the subcellular localization of NMDARs relative to GABAergic synapses is still unknown. Here, we investigated the subcellular distribution of NMDARs in association with GABAergic synapses at the developmental stage when SSA is most prominent in mice. Using multiple immunofluorescent labeling and confocal laser-scanning microscopy in the developing mouse hippocampus, we found that NMDARs were associated with both glutamatergic and GABAergic synapses at postnatal day 6-7 and we observed a direct colocalization of GABA(A)- and NMDA-receptor labeling in GABAergic synapses. Electron microscopy of pre-embedding immunogold-immunoperoxidase reactions confirmed that GluN1, GluN2A and GluN2B NMDAR subunits were all expressed in glutamatergic and GABAergic synapses postsynaptically. Finally, quantitative post-embedding immunogold labeling revealed that the density of NMDARs was 3 times higher in glutamatergic than in GABAergic synapses. Since GABAergic synapses were larger, there was little difference in the total number of NMDA receptors in the two types of synapses. In addition, receptor density in synapses was substantially higher than extrasynaptically. These data can provide the neuroanatomical basis of a new interpretation of previous physiological data regarding the GABA(A)R-NMDAR cooperation during early development. We suggest that during SSA, synaptic GABA(A)R-mediated depolarization assists NMDAR activation right inside GABAergic synapses and this effective spatial cooperation of receptors and local change of membrane potential will reach developing glutamatergic synapses with a higher probability and efficiency even further away on the dendrites. This additional level of cooperation that operates within the depolarizing GABAergic synapse, may also allow its own modification triggered by Ca(2+)-influx through the NMDA receptors.
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