Long-term sensory deprivation selectively rearranges functional inhibitory circuits in mouse barrel cortex

Peijun Li, Uwe Rudolph, Molly M. Huntsman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Long-term whisker removal alters the balance of excitation and inhibition in rodent barrel cortex, yet little is known about the contributions of individual cells and synapses in this process. We studied synaptic inhibition in four major types of neurons in live tangential slices that isolate layer 4 in the posteromedial barrel subfield. Voltage-clamp recordings of layer 4 neurons reveal that fast decay of synaptic inhibition requires α1-containing GABAA receptors. After 7 weeks of deprivation, we found that GABAA-receptor-mediated inhibitory postsynaptic currents (IPSCs) in the inhibitory low threshold-spiking (LTS) cell recorded in deprived barrels exhibited faster decay kinetics and larger amplitudes in whisker-deprived barrels than those in nondeprived barrels in age-matched controls. This was not observed in other cell types. Additionally, IPSCs recorded in LTS cells from deprived barrels show a marked increase in zolpidem sensitivity. To determine if the faster IPSC decay in LTS cells from deprived barrels indicates an increase in α1 subunit functionality, we deprived α1(H101R) mutant mice with zolpidem-insensitive α1-containing GABAA receptors. In these mice and matched wild-type controls, IPSC decay kinetics in LTS cells were faster after whisker removal; however, the deprivation-induced sensitivity to zolpidem was reduced in α1(H101R) mice. These data illustrate a change of synaptic inhibition in LTS cells via an increase in α1-subunit-mediated function. Because α1 subunits are commonly associated with circuit-specific plasticity in sensory cortex, this switch in LTS cell synaptic inhibition may signal necessary circuit changes required for plastic adjustments in sensory-deprived cortex.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)12156-12161
Number of pages6
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Issue number29
StatePublished - Jul 21 2009
Externally publishedYes


  • Interneurons
  • Networks
  • Plasticity

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General


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