Early postnatal switch in GABAA receptor α-subunits in the reticular thalamic nucleus

Susanne Pangratz-Fuehrer, Werner Sieghart, Uwe Rudolph, Isabel Parada, John R. Huguenard

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The GABAergic neurons of the thalamic reticular nucleus (nRt) provide the primary source of inhibition within the thalamus. Using physiology, pharmacology, and immunohistochemistry in mice, we characterized postsynaptic developmental changes in these inhibitory projection neurons. First, at postnatal days 3-5 (P3-5), inhibitory postsynaptic currents (IPSCs) decayed very slowly, followed by a biphasic developmental progression, becoming faster at P6-8 and then slower again at P9-11 before stabilizing in a mature form around P12. Second, the pharmacological profile of GABAA receptor (GABAAR)- mediated IPSCs differed between neonatal and mature nRt neurons, and this was accompanied by reciprocal changes in α3 (late) and α5 (early) subunit expression in nRt. Zolpidem, selective for α1- and α3-containing GABAARs, augmented only mature IPSCs, whereas clonazepam enhanced IPSCs at all stages. This effect was blocked by the α5-specific inverse agonist L-655,708, but only in immature neurons. In α3(H126R) mice, in which α3-subunits were mutated to become benzodiazepine insensitive, IPSCs were enhanced compared with those in wild-type animals in early development. Third, tonic GABAAR activation in nRt is age dependent and more prominent in immature neurons, which correlates with early expression of α5- containing GABAARs. Thus neonatal nRt neurons show relatively high expression of α5-subunits, which contributes to both slow synaptic and tonic extrasynaptic inhibition. The postnatal switch in GABAAR subunits from α5 to α3 could facilitate spontaneous network activity in nRt that occurs at this developmental time point and which is proposed to play a role in early circuit development.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1183-1195
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of neurophysiology
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 1 2016
Externally publishedYes


  • GABAR α5
  • IPSCs
  • Mouse
  • Subunit turnover
  • Tonic current

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Neuroscience
  • Physiology


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