Defects in mammalian glycinergic neurotransmission result in a complex motor disorder characterized by neonatal hypertonia and an exaggerated startle reflex, known as hyperekplexia (OMIM 149400). This affects newborn children and is characterized by noise or touch-induced seizures that result in muscle stiffness and breath-holding episodes. Although rare, this disorder can have serious consequences, including brain damage and/or sudden infant death. The primary cause of hyperekplexia is missense and non-sense mutations in the glycine receptor (GlyR) α1 subunit gene (GLRA1) on chromosome 5q33.1, although we have also discovered rare mutations in the genes encoding the GlyR β subunit (GLRB) and the GlyR clustering proteins gephyrin (GPNH) and collybistin (ARHGEF9). Recent studies of the Na+/Cl−-dependent glycine transporters GlyT1 and GlyT2 using mouse knockout models and human genetics have revealed that mutations in GlyT2 are a second major cause of hyperekplexia, while the phenotype of the GlyT1 knockout mouse resembles a devastating neurological disorder known as glycine encephalopathy (OMIM 605899). These findings highlight the importance of these transporters in regulating the levels of synaptic glycine.
glycine transporters; GlyT1; GlyT2; VIAAT; hyperekplexia; startle disease; glycine encephalopathy
Hyperekplexia is a human neurological disorder characterized by an excessive startle response and is typically caused by missense and nonsense mutations in the gene encoding the inhibitory glycine receptor (GlyR) α1 subunit (GLRA1)1-3. Genetic heterogeneity has been confirmed in isolated sporadic cases with mutations in other postsynaptic glycinergic proteins including the GlyR β subunit (GLRB)4, gephyrin (GPHN)5 and RhoGEF collybistin (ARHGEF9)6. However, many sporadic patients diagnosed with hyperekplexia do not carry mutations in these genes2-7. Here we reveal that missense, nonsense and frameshift mutations in the presynaptic glycine transporter 2 (GlyT2) gene (SLC6A5)8 also cause hyperekplexia. Patients harbouring mutations in SLC6A5 presented with hypertonia, an exaggerated startle response to tactile or acoustic stimuli, and life-threatening neonatal apnoea episodes. GlyT2 mutations result in defective subcellular localisation and/or decreased glycine uptake, with selected mutations affecting predicted glycine and Na+ binding sites. Our results demonstrate that SLC6A5 is a major gene for hyperekplexia and define the first neurological disorder linked to mutations in a Na+/Cl−-dependent transporter for a classical fast neurotransmitter. By analogy, we suggest that in other human disorders where defects in postsynaptic receptors have been identified, similar symptoms could result from defects in the cognate presynaptic neurotransmitter transporter.
Human startle disease, also known as hyperekplexia (OMIM 149400), is a paroxysmal neurological disorder caused by defects in glycinergic neurotransmission. Hyperekplexia is characterised by an exaggerated startle reflex in response to tactile or acoustic stimuli which first presents as neonatal hypertonia, followed in some with episodes of life-threatening infantile apnoea. Genetic screening studies have demonstrated that hyperekplexia is genetically heterogeneous with several missense and nonsense mutations in the postsynaptic glycine receptor (GlyR) α1 subunit gene (GLRA1) as the primary cause. More recently, missense, nonsense and frameshift mutations have also been identified in the glycine transporter GlyT2 gene, SLC6A5, demonstrating a presynaptic component to this disease. Further mutations, albeit rare, have been identified in the genes encoding the GlyR β subunit (GLRB), collybistin (ARHGEF9) and gephyrin (GPHN) – all of which are postsynaptic proteins involved in orchestrating glycinergic neurotransmission. In this review, we describe the clinical ascertainment aspects, phenotypic considerations and the downstream molecular genetic tools utilised to analyse both presynaptic and postsynaptic components of this heterogeneous human neurological disorder. Moreover, we will describe how the ancient startle response is the preserve of glycinergic neurotransmission and how animal models and human hyperekplexia patients have provided synergistic evidence that implicates this inhibitory system in the control of startle reflexes.
glycine; hyperekplexia; receptor; transporter; mutation
Hyperekplexia (startle disease) is a rare non-epileptic disorder characterised by an exaggerated persistent startle reaction to unexpected auditory, somatosensory and visual stimuli, generalised muscular rigidity, and nocturnal myoclonus. The genetic basis is a mutation usually of the arginine residue 271 leading to neuronal hyperexcitability by impairing glycinergic inhibition. Hyperekplexia is usually familial, most often autosomal dominant with complete penetrance and variable expression. It can present in fetal life as abnormal intrauterine movements, or later at any time from the neonatal period to adulthood. Early manifestations include abnormal responses to unexpected auditory, visual, and somatosensory stimuli such as sustained tonic spasm, exaggerated startle response, and fetal posture with clenched fists and anxious stare. The tonic spasms may mimic generalised tonic seizures, leading to apnoea and death. Consistent generalised flexor spasm in response to tapping of the nasal bridge (without habituation) is the clinical hallmark of hyperekplexia. Electroencephalography may show fast spikes initially during the tonic spasms, followed by slowing of background activity with eventual flattening corresponding to the phase of apnoea bradycardia and cyanosis. Electromyography shows a characteristic almost permanent muscular activity with periods of electrical quietness. Nerve conduction velocity is normal. No specific computed tomography findings have been reported yet. Clonazepam, a gamma aminobutyric acid (GABA) receptor agonist, is the treatment of choice for hypertonia and apnoeic episodes. It, however, may not influence the degree of stiffness significantly. A simple manoeuvre like forced flexion of the head and legs towards the trunk is known to be life saving when prolonged stiffness impedes respiration.
Keywords: hyperekplexia; neonates; startle
Defects in glycinergic inhibition result in a complex neuromotor disorder in humans known as hyperekplexia (OMIM 149400) with similar phenotypes in rodents characterized by an exaggerated startle reflex and hypertonia. Analogous to genetic defects in humans single point mutations, microdeletions, or insertions in the Glra1 gene but also in the Glrb gene underlie the pathology in mice. The mutations either localized in the α (spasmodic, oscillator, cincinnati, Nmf11) or the β (spastic) subunit of the glycine receptor (GlyR) are much less tolerated in mice than in humans, leaving the question for the existence of different regulatory elements of the pathomechanisms in humans and rodents. In addition to the spontaneous mutations, new insights into understanding of the regulatory pathways in hyperekplexia or glycine encephalopathy arose from the constantly increasing number of knock-out as well as knock-in mutants of GlyRs. Over the last five years, various efforts using in vivo whole cell recordings provided a detailed analysis of the kinetic parameters underlying glycinergic dysfunction. Presynaptic compensation as well as postsynaptic compensatory mechanisms in these mice by other GlyR subunits or GABAA receptors, and the role of extra-synaptic GlyRs is still a matter of debate. A recent study on the mouse mutant oscillator displayed a novel aspect for compensation of functionality by complementation of receptor domains that fold independently. This review focuses on defects in glycinergic neurotransmission in mice discussed with the background of human hyperekplexia en route to strategies of compensation.
GlyRs; synaptic inhibition; spontaneous mouse mutants; knockout mice; hyperekplexia; rescue
Glycine is the major inhibitory neurotransmitter in the spinal cord and some brain regions. The presynaptic glycine transporter, GlyT2, is required for sustained glycinergic transmission through presynaptic reuptake and recycling of glycine. Mutations in SLC6A5, encoding GlyT2, cause hereditary hyperekplexia in humans, and similar phenotypes in knock-out mice, and variants are associated with schizophrenia. We identified a spontaneous mutation in mouse Slc6a5, caused by a MusD retrotransposon insertion. The GlyT2 protein is undetectable in homozygous mutants, indicating a null allele. Homozygous mutant mice are normal at birth, but develop handling-induced spasms at five days of age, and only survive for two weeks, but allow the study of early activity-regulated developmental processes. At the neuromuscular junction, synapse elimination and the switch from embryonic to adult acetylcholine receptor subunits are hastened, consistent with a presumed increase in motor neuron activity, and transcription of acetylcholine receptors is elevated. Heterozygous mice, which show no reduction in lifespan but nonetheless have reduced levels of GlyT2, have a normal thermal sensitivity with the hot-plate test, but differences in repetitive grooming and decreased sleep time with home-cage monitoring. Open-field and elevated plus-maze tests did not detect anxiety-like behaviors; however, the latter showed a hyperactivity phenotype. Importantly, grooming and hyperactivity are observed in mouse schizophrenia models. Thus, mutations in Slc6a5 show changes in neuromuscular junction development as homozygotes, and behavioral phenotypes as heterozygotes, indicating their usefulness for studies related to glycinergic dysfunction.
Hereditary hyperekplexia, or startle disease, is a neuromotor disorder caused mainly by mutations that either prevent the surface expression of, or modify the function of, the human heteromeric α1 β glycine receptor (GlyR) chloride channel. There is as yet no explanation as to why hyperekplexia mutations that modify channel function are almost exclusively located in the α1 to the exclusion of β subunit. The majority of these mutations are identified in the M2–M3 loop of the α1 subunit. Here we demonstrate that α1 β GlyR channel function is less sensitive to hyperekplexia-mimicking mutations introduced into the M2–M3 loop of the β than into the α1 subunit. This suggests that the M2–M3 loop of the α subunit dominates the β subunit in gating the α1 β GlyR channel. A further attempt to determine the possible mechanism underlying this phenomenon by using the voltage-clamp fluorometry technique revealed that agonist-induced conformational changes in the β subunit M2–M3 loop were uncoupled from α1 β GlyR channel gating. This is in contrast to the α subunit, where the M2–M3 loop conformational changes were shown to be directly coupled to α1 β GlyR channel gating. Finally, based on analysis of α1 β chimeric receptors, we demonstrate that the structural components responsible for this are distributed throughout the β subunit, implying that the β subunit has evolved without the functional constraint of a normal gating pathway within it. Our study provides a possible explanation of why hereditary hyperekplexia-causing mutations that modify α1 β GlyR channel function are almost exclusively located in the α1 to the exclusion of the β subunit.
Inhibitory glycinergic neurotransmission is terminated by sodium and chloride-dependent plasma membrane glycine transporters (GlyTs). The mainly glial glycine transporter GlyT1 is primarily responsible for the completion of inhibitory neurotransmission and the neuronal glycine transporter GlyT2 mediates the reuptake of the neurotransmitter that is used to refill synaptic vesicles in the terminal, a fundamental role in the physiology and pathology of glycinergic neurotransmission. Indeed, inhibitory glycinergic neurotransmission is modulated by the exocytosis and endocytosis of GlyT2. We previously reported that constitutive and Protein Kinase C (PKC)-regulated endocytosis of GlyT2 is mediated by clathrin and that PKC accelerates GlyT2 endocytosis by increasing its ubiquitination. However, the role of ubiquitination in the constitutive endocytosis and turnover of this protein remains unexplored. Here, we show that ubiquitination of a C-terminus four lysine cluster of GlyT2 is required for constitutive endocytosis, sorting into the slow recycling pathway and turnover of the transporter. Ubiquitination negatively modulates the turnover of GlyT2, such that increased ubiquitination driven by PKC activation accelerates transporter degradation rate shortening its half-life while decreased ubiquitination increases transporter stability. Finally, ubiquitination of GlyT2 in neurons is highly responsive to the free pool of ubiquitin, suggesting that the deubiquitinating enzyme (DUB) ubiquitin C-terminal hydrolase-L1 (UCHL1), as the major regulator of neuronal ubiquitin homeostasis, indirectly modulates the turnover of GlyT2. Our results contribute to the elucidation of the mechanisms underlying the dynamic trafficking of this important neuronal protein which has pathological relevance since mutations in the GlyT2 gene (SLC6A5) are the second most common cause of human hyperekplexia.
The mammalian neurological disorder hereditary hyperekplexia can be attributed to various mutations of strychnine sensitive glycine receptors. The clinical symptoms of “startle disease” predominantly occur in the newborn leading to convulsive hypertonia and an exaggerated startle response to unexpected mild stimuli. Amongst others, point mutations R271Q and R271L in the α1-subunit of strychnine sensitive glycine receptors show reduced glycine sensitivity and cause the clinical symptoms of hyperekplexia.
Halogenation has been shown to be a crucial structural determinant for the potency of a phenolic compound to positively modulate glycine receptor function.
The aim of this in vitro study was to characterize the effects of 4-chloropropofol (4-chloro-2,6-dimethylphenol) at four glycine receptor mutations.
Glycine receptor subunits were expressed in HEK 293 cells and experiments were performed using the whole-cell patch-clamp technique.
4-chloropropofol exerted a positive allosteric modulatory effect in a low sub-nanomolar concentration range at the wild type receptor (EC50 value of 0.08 ± 0.02 nM) and in a micromolar concentration range at the mutations (1.3 ± 0.6 μM, 0.1 ± 0.2 μM, 6.0 ± 2.3 μM and 55 ± 28 μM for R271Q, L, K and S267I, respectively).
4-chloropropofol might be an effective compound for the activation of mutated glycine receptors in experimental models of startle disease.
Glycine receptor mutations; Hereditary hyperekplexia; 4-chloropropofol
Hyperekplexia is a rare condition characterised by the presence of neonatal hypertonia and an exaggerated startle response. Mutations have been described in GLRA1, the gene encoding the alpha 1 subunit of the glycine receptor, in dominant families with hyperekplexia and in a single sporadic case, thought to represent an autosomal recessive form of the disease. In this study the coding region of the GLRA1 was analysed in eight probands with hyperekplexia by restriction digest and sequencing. Two familial cases were found to possess the previously described G1192A (R271Q) mutation in exon 6. In an additional family in which hyperekplexia cosegregates with spastic paraparesis, a novel A to G transversion at nucleotide 1206 in exon 6 was detected that changes a lysine at amino acid 276 to a glutamate (K276E). In four sporadic cases no mutations were found. In addition, one familial case did not have a mutation in the coding region of the gene.
Background and objectives: Hyperekplexia and the stiff-man syndrome (SMS) are both conditions with exaggerated startle suggesting abnormal brainstem function. Investigation of brainstem reflexes may provide insight into disturbed reflex excitation and inhibition underlying these movement disorders.
Patients and methods: Using four-channel EMG, we examined four trigeminal brainstem reflexes (monosynaptic masseter, masseter inhibitory, glabella, and orbicularis oculi blink reflexes) and their spread into pericranial muscles in five patients with familial hyperekplexia (FH), two with acquired hyperekplexia (AH), 10 with SMS, and 15 healthy control subjects.
Results: Both FH/AH and SMS patients had abnormal propagation of brainstem reflexes into pericranial muscles. All patients with hyperekplexia showed an abnormal short-latency (15–20 ms) reflex in the trapezius muscle with a characteristic clinical appearance ("head retraction jerk") evoked by tactile or electrical stimulation of the trigeminal nerve, but normal monosynaptic masseter reflexes. Inhibitory brainstem reflexes were attenuated in some FH/AH patients. Four of 10 patients with SMS had similar short-latency reflexes in the neck muscles and frequently showed widespread enhancement of other excitatory reflexes, reflex spasms, and attenuation of inhibitory brainstem reflexes.
Conclusion: Reflex excitation is exaggerated and inhibition is attenuated in both stiff-man syndrome and familial or acquired hyperekplexia, indicating a physiological relationship. Reflex transmission in the brainstem appears biased towards excitation which may imply dysfunction of inhibitory glycinergic or GABAergic interneurons, or both.
The brainstem is said to be the generator of pathological
startle responses due to reticular reflex myoclonus or hyperekplexia. A
patient with facial weakness, nystagmus, and pyramidal tract signs had
generalised reflex spasms in response to auditory, visual and tactile
stimuli which clinically and neurophysiologically resembled
hyperekplexia. The case is unusual because as well as hyperekplexia,
the patient's initial presentation was with an equally rare
manifestation of brainstem pathology—brainstem mediated trismus. The
causes of brainstem trismus and exaggerated startle responses are
discussed with respect to their underlying mechanisms.
Aging and acoustic trauma may result in partial peripheral deafferentation in the central auditory pathway of the mammalian brain. In accord with homeostatic plasticity, loss of sensory input results in a change in pre- and postsynaptic GABAergic and glycinergic inhibitory neurotransmission. As seen in development, age-related changes may be activity dependent. Age-related presynaptic changes in the cochlear nucleus include reduced glycine levels, while in the auditory midbrain and cortex, GABA synthesis and release are altered. Presumably, in response to age-related decreases in presynaptic release of inhibitory neurotransmitters, there are age-related postsynaptic subunit changes in the composition of the glycine (GlyR) and GABAA receptors (GABAAR). Age-related changes in the subunit makeup of inhibitory pentameric receptor constructs result in altered pharmacological and physiological responses consistent with a net down-regulation of functional inhibition. Age-related functional changes associated with glycine neurotransmission in dorsal cochlear nucleus (DCN) include altered intensity and temporal coding by DCN projection neurons. Loss of synaptic inhibition in the superior olivary complex (SOC) and the inferior colliculus (IC) likely affect the ability of aged animals to localize sounds in their natural environment. Age-related postsynaptic GABAAR changes in IC and primary auditory cortex (A1) involve changes in the subunit makeup of GABAARs. In turn, these changes cause age-related changes in the pharmacology and response properties of neurons in IC and A1 circuits which collectively may affect temporal processing and response reliability. Findings of age-related inhibitory changes within mammalian auditory circuits are similar to age and deafferentation plasticity changes observed in other sensory systems. Although few studies have examined sensory aging in the wild, these age-related changes would likely compromise an animal’s ability to avoid predation or to be a successful predator in their natural environment.
The zebrafish glial glycine transporter 1 (GlyT1) mutant provides an animal model in which homeostatic plasticity at glycinergic synapses restores rhythmic motor behaviors. GlyT1 mutants, initially paralyzed by the build-up of the inhibitory neurotransmitter glycine, stage a gradual recovery that is associated with reductions in the strength of evoked glycinergic responses. Gradual motor recovery suggests sequential compensatory mechanisms that culminate in the down-regulation of the neuronal glycine receptor. However, how motor recovery is initiated and how other forms of plasticity contribute to behavioral recovery are still outstanding questions that we discuss in the context of (1) glycinergic synapses as they function in spinal circuits that produce rhythmic motor behaviors, (2) the proteins involved in regulating glycinergic synaptic strength, (3) current models of glycinergic synaptogenesis, and (4) plasticity mechanisms that modulate the strength of glycinergic synapses. Concluding remarks (5) explore the potential for distinct plasticity mechanisms to act in concert at different spatial and temporal scales to achieve a dynamic stability that results in balanced motor behaviors.
glycinergic synapse; synaptic plasticity; GlyT1 mutant; glycine encephalopathy; motor behavior; zebrafish; glycine receptor; glial glycine transporter
Glycine is a major inhibitory neurotransmitter in the spinal cord and brainstem. Recently, in vivo analysis of glycinergic synaptic transmission has been pursued in zebrafish using molecular genetics. An ENU mutagenesis screen identified two behavioral mutants that are defective in glycinergic synaptic transmission. Zebrafish bandoneon (beo) mutants have a defect in glrbb, one of the duplicated glycine receptor (GlyR) β subunit genes. These mutants exhibit a loss of glycinergic synaptic transmission due to a lack of synaptic aggregation of GlyRs. Due to the consequent loss of reciprocal inhibition of motor circuits between the two sides of the spinal cord, motor neurons activate simultaneously on both sides resulting in bilateral contraction of axial muscles of beo mutants, eliciting the so-called ‘accordion’ phenotype. Similar defects in GlyR subunit genes have been observed in several mammals and are the basis for human hyperekplexia/startle disease. By contrast, zebrafish shocked (sho) mutants have a defect in slc6a9, encoding GlyT1, a glycine transporter that is expressed by astroglial cells surrounding the glycinergic synapse in the hindbrain and spinal cord. GlyT1 mediates rapid uptake of glycine from the synaptic cleft, terminating synaptic transmission. In zebrafish sho mutants, there appears to be elevated extracellular glycine resulting in persistent inhibition of postsynaptic neurons and subsequent reduced motility, causing the ‘twitch-once’ phenotype. We review current knowledge regarding zebrafish ‘accordion’ and ‘twitch-once’ mutants, including beo and sho, and report the identification of a new α2 subunit that revises the phylogeny of zebrafish GlyRs.
glycine; synapse; receptor; transporter; zebrafish; behavior; motility
The dynamics of postsynaptic receptor scaffold formation and remodeling at inhibitory synapses remain largely unknown. Gephyrin, which is a multimeric scaffold protein, interacts with cytoskeletal elements and stabilizes glycine receptors (GlyRs) and individual subtypes of γ-aminobutyric acid A receptors at inhibitory postsynaptic sites. We report intracellular mobility of gephyrin transports packets over time. Gephyrin units enter and exit active synapses within several minutes. In addition to previous reports of GlyR–gephyrin interactions at plasma membranes, we show cosedimentation and coimmunoprecipitation of both proteins from vesicular fractions. Moreover, GlyR and gephyrin are cotransported within neuronal dendrites and further coimmunoprecipitate and colocalize with the dynein motor complex. As a result, the blockade of dynein function or dynein–gephyrin interaction, as well as the depolymerization of microtubules, interferes with retrograde gephyrin recruitment. Our data suggest a GlyR–gephyrin–dynein transport complex and support the concept that gephyrin–motor interactions contribute to the dynamic and activity-dependent rearrangement of postsynaptic GlyRs, a process thought to underlie the regulation of synaptic strength.
To explore with neuroimaging techniques the anatomical and functional correlates of sporadic hyperekplexia.
Two elderly women with sporadic hyperekplexia underwent neurophysiological assessment, MRI of the brain and proton magnetic resonance spectroscopy (1H‐MRS) of the brainstem and frontal lobes. Regional cerebral blood flow was investigated with single photon emission tomography (SPECT) during evoked startles and at rest.
Both patients showed excessively large and non‐habituating startle responses. In both patients, MRI showed impingement of the brainstem by the vertebrobasilar artery, lack of frontal or brainstem abnormalities on 1H‐MRS and hyperperfusion in the dorsal pons and cingulate cortex, and superior frontal gyrus at SPECT during evoked startles.
In our patients with hyperekplexia, the vertebrobasilar arteries were found to impinge on the brainstem. Neurophysiological findings and neurofunctional imaging of evoked startles indicated a pontine origin of the movement disorder modulated by activation in cortical, especially frontal, areas. The neurofunctional correlates of evoked startles in human sporadic hyperekplexia are similar to those observed for the startle circuit in animals.
The deep cerebellar nuclei (DCN) are a major hub in the cerebellar circuitry but the functional classification of their neurons is incomplete. We have previously characterized three cell groups in the lateral cerebellar nucleus: large non-GABAergic neurons and two groups of smaller neurons, one of which express green fluorescence protein (GFP) in a GAD67/GFP mouse line and is therefore GABAergic. However, as a substantial number of glycinergic and glycine/GABA co-expressing neurons have been described in the DCN, this classification needed to be refined by considering glycinergic neurons. To this end we took advantage of a glycine transporter isoform 2 (GlyT2)-eGFP mouse line that allows identification of GlyT2-expressing, presumably glycinergic neurons in living cerebellar slices and compared their electrophysiological properties with previously described DCN neuron populations. We found two electrophysiologically and morphologically distinct sets of GlyT2-expressing neurons in the lateral cerebellar nucleus. One of them showed electrophysiological similarity to the previously characterized GABAergic cell group. The second GlyT2+ cell population, however, differed from all other so far described neuron types in DCN in that the cells (1) are intrinsically silent in slices and only fire action potentials upon depolarizing current injection and (2) have a projecting axon that was often seen to leave the DCN and project in the direction of the cerebellar cortex. Presence of this so far undescribed DCN neuron population in the lateral nucleus suggests a direct inhibitory pathway from the DCN to the cerebellar cortex.
Cerebellum; Cerebellar nuclei; GlyT2; Glycinergic neuron; In vitro
The ventromedial medulla (VM), subdivided in a rostral (RVM) and a caudal (CVM) part, has a powerful influence on the spinal cord. In this study, we have identified the distribution of glycine and GABA containing neurons in the VM with projections to the cervical spinal cord, the lumbar dorsal horn, and the lumbar ventral horn. For this purpose, we have combined retrograde tracing using fluorescent microspheres with fluorescent in situ hybridization (FISH) for glycine transporter 2 (GlyT2) and GAD67 mRNAs to identify glycinergic and/or GABAergic (Gly/GABA) neurons. Since the results obtained with FISH for GlyT2, GAD67, or GlyT2+GAD67 mRNAs were not significantly different, we concluded that glycine and GABA coexisted in the various projection neurons. After injections in the cervical cord, we found that 29%±1 (SEM) of the retrogradely labeled neurons in the VM were Gly/GABA (RVM: 43%; CVM: 21%). After lumbar dorsal horn injections 31%±3 of the VM neurons were Gly/GABA (RVM: 45%; CVM: 12%), and after lumbar ventral horn injections 25%±2 were Gly/GABA (RVM: 35%; CVM: 17%). In addition, we have identified a novel ascending Gly/GABA pathway originating from neurons in the area around the central canal (CC) throughout the spinal cord and projecting to the RVM, emphasizing the interaction between the ventromedial medulla and the spinal cord. The present study has now firmly established that GABA and glycine are present in many VM neurons that project to the spinal cord. These neurons strongly influence spinal processing, most notably the inhibition of nociceptive transmission.
Inhibitory neurotransmitter receptors for glycine (GlyR) are heteropentameric chloride ion channels that are comprised of four functional subunits, alpha1–3 and beta and that facilitate fast-response, inhibitory neurotransmission in the mammalian brain and spinal cord. We have investigated the distribution of GlyRs in the human forebrain, brainstem, and cervical spinal cord using immunohistochemistry at light and confocal laser scanning microscopy levels. This review will summarize the present knowledge on the GlyR distribution in the human brain using our established immunohistochemical techniques. The results of our immunohistochemical labeling studies demonstrated GlyR immunoreactivity (IR) throughout the human basal ganglia, substantia nigra, various pontine regions, rostral medulla oblongata and the cervical spinal cord present an intense and abundant punctate IR along the membranes of the neuronal soma and dendrites. This work is part of a systematic study of inhibitory neurotransmitter receptor distribution in the human CNS, and provides a basis for additional detailed physiological and pharmacological studies on the inter-relationship of GlyR, GABAAR and gephyrin in the human brain. This basic mapping exercise, we believe, will provide important baselines for the testing of future pharmacotherapies and drug regimes that modulate neuroinhibitory systems. These findings provide new information for understanding the complexity of glycinergic functions in the human brain, which will translate into the contribution of inhibitory mechanisms in paroxysmal disorders and neurodegenerative diseases such as Epilepsy, Huntington's and Parkinson's Disease and Motor Neuron Disease.
human brain; glycine receptor; immunohistochemistry
Glycine and γ-aminobutyric acid (GABA) are the major inhibitory neurotransmitters in the retina. Approximately half of the amacrine cells release glycine at their synapses with bipolar, other amacrine, and ganglion cells. Glycinergic amacrine cells are small-field amacrine cells with vertically oriented dendrites and comprise more than 10 different morphological types. The retinal distributions of glycine receptor (GlyR) α1, α2, α3 and α4 subtypes have been mapped with subunit-specific antibodies. GlyRs were clustered at postsynaptic hot spots which showed selective distributions for the different subunits. As a rule, only one α subunit was expressed at a given postsynaptic site. The kinetic properties of GlyRs were measured by recording spontaneous inhibitory postsynaptic currents (sIPSCs) from identified retinal neurons in wild-type, Glra1spd-ot, Glra2 and Glra3 knockout mice. From observed differences of sIPSCs in wild-type and mutant mice, the cell-type specific subunit composition of GlyRs could be defined. OFF-cone bipolar cells and A-type ganglion cells receive prominent glycinergic input with fast kinetics that is mainly mediated by α1β GlyRs (decay time constant τ ∼ 5 ms). By contrast, AII amacrine cells express α3β GlyRs with medium fast kinetics (τ ∼ 11 ms). Narrow-field (NF) and wide-field amacrine cells contain predominantly α2β GlyRs with slow kinetics (τ ∼ 27 ms). Lastly, ON-starburst, narrow-field and wide-field amacrine cells in Glra2 knockout mice express α4β GlyRs with very slow kinetics (τ ∼ 70 ms).
glycine receptors; sIPSCs; retina; synapses; Glra1spd-ot mice; Glra2−/− mice; Glra3−/− mice
The extracellular levels of the neurotransmitter glycine in the brain are tightly regulated by the glycine transporter 1 (GlyT1) and the clearance rate for glycine depends on its rate of transport and the levels of cell surface GlyT1. Over the years, it has been shown that PKC tightly regulates the activity of several neurotransmitter transporters. In the present work, by stably expressing three N-terminus GlyT1 isoforms in porcine aortic endothelial cells and assaying for [32P]-orthophosphate metabolic labeling, we demonstrated that the isoforms GlyT1a, GlyT1b, and GlyT1c were constitutively phosphorylated, and that phosphorylation was dramatically enhanced, in a time dependent fashion, after PKC activation by phorbol ester. The phosphorylation was PKC-dependent, since pre-incubation of the cells with bisindolylmaleimide I, a selective PKC inhibitor, abolished the phorbol ester-induced phosphorylation. Blotting with specific anti-phospho-tyrosine antibodies did not yield any signal that could correspond to GlyT1 tyrosine phosphorylation, suggesting that the phosphorylation occurs at serine and/or threonine residues. In addition, a 23-40% -inhibition on Vmax was obtained by incubation with phorbol ester without a significant change on the apparent Km value. Furthermore, pre-incubation of the cells with the selective PKCα/β inhibitor Gö6976 abolished the downregulation effect of phorbol ester on uptake and phosphorylation, whereas the selective PKCβ inhibitors (PKCβ inhibitor or LY333531) prevented the phosphorylation without affecting glycine uptake, defining a specific role of classical PKC on GlyT1 uptake and phosphorylation. Taken together, these data suggest that phosphorylation that conventional PKCα/β regulates the uptake of glycine, whereas PKCβ is responsible for GlyT1 phosphorylation.
phosphorylation; glycine; transporter; PKC
The microtubule-binding protein gephyrin is known to play a pivotal role in targeting and clustering postsynaptic inhibitory receptors. Here, the Intracellular Antibodies Capture Technology (IATC) was used to select two single-chain antibody fragments or intrabodies, which, fused to nuclear localization signals (NLS), were able to efficiently and selectively remove gephyrin from glycine receptor (GlyR) clusters. Co-transfection of NLS-tagged individual intrabodies with gephyrin-enhanced green fluorescent protein (EGFP) in HEK 293 cells revealed a partial relocalization of gephyrin aggregates onto the nucleus or in the perinuclear area. When expressed in cultured neurons, these intrabodies caused a significant reduction in the number of immunoreactive GlyR clusters, which was associated with a decrease in the peak amplitude of glycine-evoked whole cell currents as assessed with electrophysiological experiments. Hampering protein function at a posttranslational level may represent an attractive alternative for interfering with gephyrin function in a more spatially localized manner.
Gephyrin; Glycine receptor clusters; Intracellular antibodies; Hippocampal neurons; IATC
The preBötzinger Complex (preBötC) is essential for normal respiratory rhythm generation in rodents, for which the underlying mechanisms remain unknown. Excitatory preBötC pacemaker neurons are proposed to be necessary for rhythm generation. Here we report the presence of a population of preBötC glycinergic pacemaker neurons. We used rhythmic in vitro transverse slice preparations from transgenic mice where neurons expressing the glycine transporter 2 (GlyT2) gene co-express enhanced green fluorescent protein (EGFP). We combined epifluorescence and whole-cell patch-clamp recording to study preBötC EGFP-labeled, i.e., glycinergic, inspiratory-modulated neurons with pacemaker properties. We defined glycinergic pacemaker neurons as those preBötC EGFP neurons that exhibited: 1) ectopic bursting in rhythmic slices when depolarized during their normally silent period, and; 2) bursting when depolarized in non-rhythmic slices (following AMPA receptor blockade). 42% of EGFP-labeled neurons were inspiratory (n=48 of 115), of which 23% (n=11 of 48 inspiratory; 10% of the total recorded) were pacemakers. We conclude that there is a population of preBötC inspiratory-modulated glycinergic, presumably inhibitory, pacemaker neurons that constitute a substantial fraction of all preBötC pacemaker neurons. These findings challenge contemporary models for respiratory rhythmogenesis that assume the excitatory nature of preBötC pacemaker neurons. Testable and non-trivial predictions of the functional role of excitatory and inhibitory pacemaker neurons need to be proposed and the necessary experiments performed.
respiratory rhythm generation; breathing; GlyT2-EGFP mice; glycine; inhibition; Pacemaker
Glycine receptors (GlyRs) are pentameric ligand-gated ion channels that mediate inhibitory neurotransmission in the brain and spinal cord and are targets of alcohols and anesthetics. The transmembrane (TM) domain of GlyR subunits is composed of four α-helical segments (TM1–4), but there are conflicting data about the orientation of TM3 and TM4 and, therefore, also the proximity of residues (e.g., A288) that are important for alcohol and anesthetic effects. In the present study, we investigated the proximity of A288 in TM3 to residues in TM4 from M404 to K411. We generated eight double mutant GlyRs (A288C/M404C, A288C/F405C, A288C/Y406C, A288C/W407C, A288C/I408C, A288C/I409C, A288C/Y410C, and A288C/K411C), as well as the corresponding single mutants, and expressed them in Xenopus laevis oocytes. To measure glycine responses, we used two-electrode voltage clamp electrophysiology. We built homology models of the GlyR using structures of the nicotinic acetylcholine receptor (nAChR) and a prokaryotic ion channel (Gloeobacter violaceus, GLIC) as templates, and asked which model best fit our experimental data. Application of the cross-linking reagent HgCl2 in the closed state produced a leftward shift in the glycine concentration–response curves of the A288C/W407C and A288C/Y410C mutants, suggesting they are able to form cross-links. In addition, when HgCl2 was coapplied with glycine, responses were changed in the A288C/Y406C, A288C/I409C, and A288C/Y410C double mutants, suggesting that agonist-induced rotation of TM4 allows A288C/Y406C and A288C/I409C to cross-link. These results are consistent with a model of GlyR, based on nAChR, in which A288, Y406, W407, I409, and Y410 face into a four-helical bundle.
Glycine receptor; GABA-A receptor; nicotinic acetylcholine receptor; ligand-gated ion channels; molecular modeling