This report of the proceedings of a symposium presented at the 2005 annual meeting of the Research Society on Alcoholism highlights the actions of ethanol on purinergic (P2XRs) and 5-hydro-xytryptamine3 (5-HT3Rs) receptors. Both P2XRs and 5-HT3Rs, are modulated by pharmacologically relevant concentrations of ethanol, with inhibition or stimulation of P2XR subtypes and stimulation of 5-HT3Rs, respectively. With regard to ethanol-modulatory actions, these 2 distinctly different receptor classes have been studied to a much lesser extent than other LGICs. The organizers and chairs were Daryl L. Davies and Tina K. Machu. John J. Woodward discusses the molecular pharmacology and physiology of P2XRs and 5-HT3Rs and sets the stage for a detailed investigation into the ethanol sensitivity of these channels by the invited speakers. Daryl L. Davies discusses the results from recent electrophysiological studies conducted in his and Dr. Woodward's laboratories, highlighting the actions of ethanol on P2XR subtypes. Jiang-Hong Ye discusses results from recent studies using loose-patch and whole-cell recordings on purinergic receptors expressed on neurons from the ventral tegmental area (VTA) in rats. Tina K. Machu discusses electrophysiological studies conducted in her and Dr. David Lovinger's laboratories on nonpore lining residues of the second transmembrane domain (TM2) of the 5-HT3A receptor. Li Zhang presents data demonstrating that F-actin cytoskeletons play a critical role in 5-HT3 receptor clustering in hippocampal neurons. Collectively, the presentations provided strong evidence that P2X and 5-HT3 receptors are important targets for ethanol action.
5-HT3 Receptor; P2X receptor; Alcohol; Ethanol
Toluene is a volatile solvent that is intentionally inhaled by children, adolescents and adults for its intoxicating effects. While voluntary use of toluene suggests that it possesses rewarding properties and abuse potential, it is unknown whether toluene alters excitatory synaptic transmission in reward sensitive dopamine neurons like other drugs of abuse. Here, using a combination of retrograde labeling and slice electrophysiology, we show that a brief in vivo exposure of rats to a behaviorally relevant concentration of toluene vapor enhances glutamatergic synaptic strength of dopamine (DA) neurons projecting to nucleus accumbens core and medial shell neurons. This effect persisted for up to 3 days in mesoaccumbens core DA neurons and for at least 21 days in those projecting to the medial shell. In contrast, toluene vapor exposure had no effect on synaptic strength of DA neurons that project to the medial prefrontal cortex (mPFC). Furthermore, infusion of GABAergic modulators into the mPFC prior to vapor exposure to pharmacologically manipulate output, inhibited or potentiated toluene's action on mesoaccumbens DA neurons. Taken together, the results of these studies indicate that toluene induces a target-selective increase in mesolimbic DA neuron synaptic transmission and strongly implicates the mPFC as an important regulator of drug-induced plasticity of mesolimbic dopamine neurons.
Over the past fifty years a significant body of evidence has been compiled suggesting an interaction between the endocannabinoid (EC) system and alcohol dependence. However, much of this work has been conducted only in the past two decades following the elucidation of the molecular constituents of the EC system that began with the serendipitous discovery of the cannabinoid 1 receptor (CB1). Since then, novel pharmacological and genetic tools have enabled researchers to manipulate select components of the EC system, to determine their contribution to the motivation to consume ethanol. From these preclinical studies, it is evident that CB1 contributes the motivational and reinforcing properties of ethanol, and chronic consumption of ethanol alters EC transmitter levels and CB1 expression in brain nuclei associated with addiction pathways. These results are augmented by in vitro and ex vivo studies showing that acute and chronic treatment with ethanol produces physiologically relevant alterations in the function of the EC system. This report provides a current and comprehensive review of the literature regarding the interactions between ethanol and the EC system. We begin be reviewing the studies published prior to the discovery of the EC system that compared the behavioral and physiological effects of cannabinoids with ethanol in addition to cross-tolerance between these drugs. Next, a brief overview of the molecular constituents of the EC system is provided as context for the subsequent review of more recent studies examining the interaction of ethanol with the EC system. These results are compiled into a summary providing a scheme for the known changes to the components of the EC system in different stages of alcohol dependence. Finally, future directions for research are discussed.
ethanol; endocannabinoid; alcohol dependence; CB1; anandamide; 2-arachidonyl glycerol
N-methyl-D-aspartate (NMDA) receptors are ion channels activated by the neurotransmitter glutamate and are highly expressed by neurons. These receptors are critical for excitatory synaptic signaling and inhibition of NMDA receptors leads to impaired cognition and learning. Ethanol inhibits NMDA currents at concentrations associated with intoxication and this action may underlie some of the behavioral effects of ethanol. Although numerous sites and mechanisms of action have been tested, the manner in which ethanol inhibits NMDA receptors remains unclear. Recent findings in the literature suggest that ethanol, via facilitation of tyrosine phosphatase activity, may dephosphorylate key tyrosine residues in the C-terminus of GluN2B subunits resulting in diminished channel function. To directly test this hypothesis, we engineered GluN2B mutants that contained phenylalanine in place of tyrosine at three different sites and transiently expressed them with the GluN1 subunit in human embryonic kidney (HEK) cells. Whole-cell patch clamp electrophysiology was used to record glutamate-activated currents in the absence and presence of ethanol (10–600 mM). All mutants were functional and did not differ from one another with respect to current amplitude, steady-state to peak ratio, or magnesium block. Analysis of ethanol dose-response curves showed no significant difference in IC50 values between wild-type receptors and Y1252F, Y1336F, Y1472F or triple Y-F mutants. These findings suggest that dephosphorylation of C-terminal tyrosine residues does not account for ethanol inhibition of GluN2B receptors.
Ethanol; phosphorylation; GluN2B; Electrophysiology
Cognitive functions supported by neurons in the prefrontal cortex (PFC) are disrupted by acute and chronic exposure to alcohol, yet little is known about the mechanisms that underlie these effects. In the present study, in vivo and in vitro electrophysiology was used to determine the effects of ethanol on neuronal firing and network patterns of persistent activity in PFC neurons. In vivo, ethanol (0.375-3.5 g/kg) dose-dependently reduced spike activity in the PFC measured with multi-electrode extracellular recording in the anesthetized rat. In an in vitro co-culture system containing slices of PFC, hippocampus and ventral tegmental area (VTA), ethanol (25-100 mM) decreased persistent activity of PFC neurons but had little effect on firing evoked by direct current injection. Persistent activity was often enhanced following ethanol washout and this effect was maintained in cultures lacking the VTA. A low concentration of the NMDA antagonist APV (5 μM) mimicked ethanol's inhibition of persistent activity with no change in activity following washout. Ethanol inhibition of spontaneous and VTA-evoked persistent activity was enhanced by the D1 dopamine receptor antagonist SCH23390. The results of this study show that ethanol inhibits persistent activity and spike firing of PFC neurons and that the degree of ethanol inhibition may be influenced by D1 receptor tone. Ethanol-induced alterations in the activity of deep-layer cortical neurons may underlie some of the behavioral effects associated with ethanol intake.
alcohol; bi-stability; electrophysiology; slice culture
The effects of ethanol on brain function are thought to be due in part to alterations in the activity of ion channels that regulate synaptic activity. Results from previous studies from this lab and others have shown that ethanol inhibits the function of the N-methyl-D-aspartate (NMDA) receptors, a calcium-permeable ion channel activated by the neurotransmitter glutamate. Factors that alter the acute sensitivity of NMDA receptors to ethanol may be critical in determining how neurons and neuronal networks respond to the presence of ethanol. In this study, we have examined the effect of physiologically relevant concentrations of magnesium on the ethanol sensitivity of recombinant NMDA receptors and how ethanol inhibition under these conditions is influenced by the NR3A subunit.
Recombinant cDNAs encoding NMDA receptor subunits were expressed in human embryonic kidney (HEK) 293 cells. Whole-cell patch-clamp electrophysiology was used to measure currents induced by rapid application of glutamate in the absence and presence of ethanol.
In magnesium-free recording solution, ethanol inhibited glutamate-mediated currents in cells transfected with NMDA receptor subunits. The magnitude of ethanol inhibition was significantly enhanced when recordings were carried out in media containing 1 mM magnesium. This effect was reversible and required magnesium-sensitive receptors. Magnesium did not enhance ethanol inhibition of glycine-activated NR1/NR3A/NR3B receptors. However, NR3A co-expression prevented the enhancement of ethanol's inhibitory effect on receptors composed of NR2A but not NR2B subunits.
These results suggest that under physiological conditions, NR3A may be an important regulator of the acute ethanol sensitivity of brain NMDA receptors
electrophysiology; addiction; glutamate; HEK cells
Brain imaging studies have revealed abnormal function in the prefrontal cortex (PFC) of alcoholics that may contribute to the impulsive behavior and lack of control over drinking that characterizes this disorder. Understanding how ethanol affects the physiology of PFC neurons may help explain this loss of control and lead to better treatments for alcohol addiction. In a previous study from this laboratory, we showed that ethanol inhibits complex patterns of persistent activity (known as “up-states”) in medial PFC (mPFC) neurons in a reversible and concentration-dependent manner.
In the current study, whole-cell patch clamp recordings were used to directly examine the effects of ethanol on the glutamatergic and GABAergic components that underlie persistent activity.
In deep-layer mPFC pyramidal neurons, ethanol reversibly attenuated electrically evoked N-methyl-d-aspartate-type glutamate receptor (NMDAR)-mediated EPSCs. Significant inhibition was observed at concentrations as low as 22 mM, equivalent to a blood ethanol concentration (0.1%) typically associated with legal limits for intoxication. In contrast to NMDA responses, neither evoked nor spontaneous EPSCs mediated by α-amino-3-hydroxy-5-methylisoxazole-4-propionic acid-type glutamate receptor were affected by ethanol at concentrations as high as 88 mM, a concentration that can be fatal to non-tolerant individuals. At similar concentrations, ethanol also had little effect on spontaneous or evoked IPSCs mediated by a-type γ-amino-butyric acid receptor. Finally, mPFC neurons showed little evidence of GABAR-mediated tonic current and this was unaffected by ethanol.
Together, these results suggest that NMDAR-mediated processes in the mPFC may be particularly susceptible to disruption following the acute ingestion of ethanol.
Alcohol; Addiction; GABA; AMPA; Electrophysiology
Chronic ethanol (EtOH) treatment decreases the motor-impairing effects of cannabinoids and down-regulates the CB1 receptor. However, these studies have been limited to measures of ataxia and analysis of CB1 expression from whole-brain or hippocampal preparations.
To more fully assess the interactions between ethanol and cannabinoids, a tetrad of four well-characterized cannabinoid-induced behaviors (hypolocomotion, antinociception, hypothermia, and catalepsy) was measured in mice following EtOH treatment. Additionally, immunoblotting assessed CB1 protein in tissue from nine brain regions associated with these behaviors and the addiction neurocircuitry.
Materials and Methods
Male C57Bl/6J mice were administered EtOH (0, 2, or 4 g/kg; i.p) twice daily for ten days. Tetrad behaviors induced by the CB1 agonist WIN 55,212-2 (3 mg/kg, i.p.) were measured in subjects 1 or 10 days following the last EtOH injection. In a separate group of animals, tissue was collected at the same time points for immunoblot analysis.
EtOH treated mice were less sensitive to the hypothermic, hypolocomotive, and antinociceptive effects of WIN and this effect reversed to control levels over a 10-day abstinence period. EtOH treatment did not affect WIN-induced catalepsy. CB1 protein expression was significantly altered in several brain areas including hypothalamus, periaqueductal grey, ventral tegmental area, and cerebellum.
These results show that chronic EtOH treatment significantly affects the behavioral sensitivity to cannabinoid drugs and alters CB1 expression in several brain regions. Furthermore, these effects are selective as some behaviors and brain regions display an altered response while others do not.
Ethanol; CB1; Mouse Tetrad; Tolerance; WIN 55; 212-2; Cannabinoids; nociception; catalepsy
The prefrontal cortex (PFC) is critically involved in working memory, cognition and decision-making; processes significantly affected by ethanol. During quiet restfulness or sleep, prefrontal cortical neurons show synaptically-evoked oscillations in membrane potential between hyperpolarized down-states and depolarized up-states. Previous studies from this laboratory used whole-cell electrophysiology and demonstrated that in individual neurons, ethanol inhibited PFC up-states at concentrations associated with behavioral impairment. While those studies monitored activity in one or two neurons at a time, it is likely that in vivo, larger networks of neurons participate in the complex functions of the prefrontal cortex. In the present study, we used imaging and a genetically encoded calcium sensor to examine the effects of ethanol on the activity of multiple neurons simultaneously during up-states.
Slice cultures of mouse prefrontal cortex were infected with an AAV virus encoding the calcium indicator GCaMP3 whose expression was driven by the neuron-specific synapsin promoter. After 2–3 weeks in culture, a fast CCD-camera imaging system was used to capture changes in GCaMP3 fluorescence before, during and after exposure to ethanol.
PFC neurons displayed robust and reproducible changes in GCaMP3 fluorescence during evoked and spontaneous up-states. Simultaneous whole-cell patch-clamp recording and GCaMP3 imaging verified that neurons transitioned into and out of up-states together. Acute application of ethanol reliably depressed up-state calcium signals with lower doses having a greater effect on up-state duration than amplitude. These effects of ethanol on up-state parameters were reversed during washout.
The results of the present study indicate that ethanol has profound effects on upstate activity in prefrontal neurons and suggest that this action may underlie some of the cognitive impairment associated with acute alcohol intoxication.
persistent activity; prefrontal cortex; alcohol; addiction; cognition
The prefrontal cortex occupies the anterior portion of the frontal lobes and is thought to be one of the most complex anatomical and functional structures of the mammalian brain. Its major role is to integrate and interpret inputs from cortical and sub-cortical structures and use this information to develop purposeful responses that reflect both present and future circumstances. This includes both action-oriented sequences involved in obtaining rewards and inhibition of behaviors that pose undue risk or harm to the individual. Given the central role in initiating and regulating these often complex cognitive and behavioral responses, it is no surprise that alcohol has profound effects on the function of the prefrontal cortex. In this chapter, we review the basic anatomy and physiology of the prefrontal cortex and discuss what is known about the actions of alcohol on the function of this brain region. This includes a review of both the human and animal literature including information on the electrophysiological and behavioral effects that follow acute and chronic exposure to alcohol. The chapter concludes with a discussion of unanswered questions and areas needing further investigation.
Executive function; Orbitofrontal cortex; Working memory; Persistent Activity; Up-States
N-methyl-D-aspartate (NMDA) receptors are ligand-gated ion channels activated by the neurotransmitter glutamate. These channels are highly expressed by brain neurons and are critically involved in excitatory synaptic transmission. Results from previous studies show that both native and recombinant NMDA receptors are inhibited by ethanol at concentrations associated with signs of behavioral impairment and intoxication. Given the important role that NMDA receptors play in synaptic transmission and brain function, it is important to understand the factors that regulate the ethanol inhibition of these receptors. One dynamic mechanism for regulating ethanol action may be via phosphorylation of NMDA subunits by serine-threonine and tyrosine kinases. Both NR1 and NR2 subunits contain multiple sites of phosphorylation and in the NR1 subunit, most of these are contained within the C1 domain, a carboxy-terminal cassette that is subject to alternative splicing. While results from our previous studies suggest that single phosphorylation sites do not greatly affect ethanol sensitivity of NMDA receptors, it is likely that in vivo, these subunits are phosphorylated at multiple sites by different kinases. In the present study, we constructed a series of NMDA receptor mutants at serine (S) or threonine (T) residues proposed to be sites of phosphorylation by PKA and various isoforms of PKC. Ethanol (100 mM) inhibited currents from wild-type NR1/2A and NR1/2B receptors expressed in HEK293 cells by approximately 25% and 30% respectively. This inhibition was not different in single site mutants expressing alanine (A) or aspartate/glutamate (D/E) at positions T879, S896 or T900. The mutant NR1(S890D) showed greater ethanol inhibition than NR1(890A) containing receptors although this was only observed when it was combined with the NR2A subunit. Ethanol inhibition was not altered by aspartate substitution at four serines (positions 889, 890, 896, 897) or when T879D was added to the four serine-substituted mutant. Ethanol inhibition was increased when T900E was added to the five serine/threonine substituted mutant but again this was selective for NR2A containing receptors. Together with previously published data, these findings suggest that modification of putative phosphorylation sites could contribute to the overall acute ethanol sensitivity of recombinant NMDA receptors. Supported by R37 AA009986.
PKA; PKC; phosphorylation; electrophysiology; alcohol
In humans, stroke or trauma-induced damage to the orbitofrontal cortex (OFC) or medial prefrontal cortex (mPFC) results in impaired cognitive flexibility. Alcoholics also exhibit similar deficits in cognitive flexibility suggesting that the OFC and mPFC are susceptible to alcohol-induced dysfunction. The present experiments investigated this issue using an attention set-shifting assay in ethanol dependent adult male C57BL/6J mice. Ethanol dependence was induced by exposing mice to repeated cycles of chronic intermittent ethanol (CIE) vapor inhalation. Behavioral testing was conducted 72 hours or 10 days following CIE exposure to determine whether ethanol-induced changes in OFC-dependent (reversal learning) and mPFC-dependent (set-shifting) behaviors are long-lasting. During early ethanol abstinence (72 hrs), CIE mice showed reduced reversal learning performance as compared to controls. Reversal learning deficits were revealed as greater number of trials to criterion, more errors made and a greater difficulty in performing a reversal learning task relative to baseline performance. Furthermore, the magnitude of the impairment was greater during reversal of a simple discrimination rather than reversal of an intradimensional shift. Reversal learning deficits were no longer present when mice were tested 10 days after CIE exposure suggesting that ethanol-induced changes in OFC function can recover. Unexpectedly, performance on the set-shifting task was not impaired during abstinence from ethanol. These data suggest reversal learning, but not attention set-shifting, is transiently disrupted during short-term abstinence from CIE. Given that reversal learning requires an intact OFC, these findings support the idea that the OFC may be vulnerable to the cognitive impairing actions of ethanol.
reversal learning; attention set-shifting; alcohol dependence; withdrawal; behavioral flexibility
Volatile organic solvents such as toluene are voluntarily inhaled for their intoxicating effects. Solvent use is especially prevalent among adolescents, and is associated with deficits in a wide range of cognitive tasks including attention, behavioral control, and risk assessment. Despite these findings, little is known about the effects of toluene on brain areas mediating these behaviors. In this study, whole-cell patch-clamp recordings were used to determine the effect toluene on neurons within the medial PFC, a region critically involved in cognitive function. Toluene had no effect on measures of intrinsic excitability, but enhanced stimulus-evoked γ-amino butyric acid A-mediated inhibitory postsynaptic currents (IPSCs). In the presence of tetrodotoxin (TTX) to block action potentials, toluene increased the frequency and amplitude of miniature IPSCs. In contrast, toluene induced a delayed but persistent decrease in evoked or spontaneous AMPA-mediated excitatory postsynaptic currents (EPSCs). This effect was prevented by an intracellular calcium chelator or by the ryanodine receptor and SERCA inhibitors, dantrolene or thapsigargin, respectively, suggesting that toluene may mobilize intracellular calcium pools. The toluene-induced reduction in AMPA EPSCs was also prevented by a cannabinoid receptor (CB1R) antagonist, and was occluded by the CB1 agonist WIN 55,212-2 that itself induced a profound decrease in AMPA-mediated EPSCs. Toluene had no effect on the frequency or amplitude of miniature EPSCs recorded in the presence of TTX. Finally, toluene dose-dependently inhibited N-methyl--aspartate (NMDA)-mediated EPSCs and the magnitude and reversibility of this effect was CB1R sensitive indicating both direct and indirect actions of toluene on NMDA-mediated responses. Together, these results suggest that the effect of toluene on cognitive behaviors may result from its action on inhibitory and excitatory synaptic transmission of PFC neurons.
abused inhalants; toluene; NMDA; GABA; endocannabinoids; CB1 receptors; glutamate; GABA; addiction & substance abuse; cannabinoids; prefrontal cortex; electrophysiology; endocannabinoids; volatile solvents
SK2 potassium channels control excitability and contribute to plasticity by reducing excitatory postsynaptic potentials. Recent evidence suggests that SK2 channels form a calcium-dependent negative-feedback loop with synaptic NMDA receptors. Addiction to alcohol and other drugs of abuse induces plastic changes in glutamatergic synapses that include the targeting of NMDA receptors to synaptic sites; however, the role of SK2 channels in alcohol-associated homeostatic plasticity is unknown.
Electrophysiology, Western blot, and behavioral analyses were used to quantify changes in hippocampal SK channel function and expression using well-characterized in-vitro and in-vivo models of chronic alcohol exposure.
Chronic ethanol reduced apamin-sensitive SK currents in CA1 pyramidal neurons that were associated with a down-regulation of surface SK2 channels. Blocking SK channels with apamin potentiated excitatory post-synaptic potentials in control but not ethanol treated CA1 pyramidal neurons, suggesting that chronic ethanol disrupts the SK channel-NMDA receptor feedback loop. Alcohol reduced expression of SK2 channels and increased expression of NMDA receptors at synaptic sites in a mouse model. Positive modulation of SK function by 1-EBIO decreased alcohol withdrawal hyperexcitability and attenuated ethanol withdrawal neurotoxicity in hippocampus. 1-EBIO also reduced seizure activity in mice undergoing withdrawal.
These results provide evidence that SK2 channels contribute to alcohol-associated adaptive plasticity of glutamatergic synapses and that positive modulation of SK channels reduces the severity of withdrawal-related hyperexcitability. Therefore, SK2 channels appear to be critical regulators of alcohol-associated plasticity and may be novel therapeutic targets for the treatment of addiction.
SK2; adaptive plasticity; alcoholism; glutamatergic synapses; withdrawal hyperexcitability; 1-EBIO
Elucidating mechanisms that underlie the neural actions of ethanol is critical for understanding how this drug affects behavior. Increasing evidence suggests that, in addition to mid-brain dopaminergic regions, higher cortical structures play an important role in the pathophysiology associated with alcohol abuse. Previous studies from this laboratory used a novel slice co-culture system to demonstrate that ethanol reduces network-dependent patterns of activity in excitatory pyramidal neurons of the prefrontal cortex. In the present study, we examine the effect of ethanol on the activity of fast-spiking interneurons, a sub-population of neurons critically involved in shaping cortical activity.
Slices containing the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex were prepared from neonatal C57 mice and maintained in culture. After 2–3 weeks in vitro, whole-cell patch-clamp electrophysiology was used to monitor spontaneous episodes of persistent activity in prelimbic PFC neurons. In some experiments, the use-dependent NMDA receptor blocker, MK801, was included in the pipette recording solution to assess the contribution of NMDA receptors to up-states.
MK801 reduced up-state amplitude and revealed underlying fast EPSPs in excitatory pyramidal neurons while having little effect on these parameters in fast-spiking interneurons. Despite this difference, ethanol (44 mM), significantly reduced up-state duration and up-state area in both pyramidal and fast-spiking interneurons.
These results suggest that ethanol reduces the activity of fast-spiking interneurons due to disruption of network-dependent activity. This would be expected to further impair the ability of PFC networks to carry out their normal function and may contribute to the adverse effects of ethanol on PFC-dependent behaviors.
Previous studies have shown that the N-methyl-D-aspartate (NMDA) receptor is an important target for the actions of ethanol in the brain. NMDA receptors are glutamate-activated ion channels that are highly expressed in neurons. They are activated during periods of significant glutamatergic synaptic activity and are an important source of the signaling molecule calcium in the post-synaptic spine. Alterations in the function of NMDA receptors by drugs or disease are associated with deficits in motor, sensory and cognitive processes of the brain. Acutely, ethanol inhibits ion flow through NMDA receptors while sustained exposure to ethanol can induce compensatory changes in the density and localization of the receptor. Defining factors that govern the acute ethanol sensitivity of NMDA receptors is an important step in how an individual responds to ethanol. In the present study, we investigated the effect of calcium-calmodulin dependent protein kinase II (CaMKII) on the ethanol sensitivity of recombinant NMDA receptors. CaMKII is a major constituent of the post-synaptic density and is critically involved in various forms of learning and memory. NMDA receptor subunits were transiently expressed in human embryonic kidney 293 cells (HEK 293) along with CaMKII-α or CaMKII-β tagged with the green fluorescent protein (GFP). Whole cell currents were elicited by brief exposures to glutamate and were measured using patchclamp electrophysiology. Neither CaMKII-α or CaMKII-β had any significant effect on the ethanol inhibition of NR1/2A or NR1/2B receptors. Ethanol inhibition was also unaltered by deletion of CaMKII binding domains in NR1 or NR2 subunits or by phospho-site mutants that mimic or occlude CaMKII phosphorylation. Chronic treatment of cortical neurons with ethanol had no significant effect on the expression of CaMKII-α or CaMKII-β. The results of this study suggest that CaMKII is not involved in regulating the acute ethanol sensitivity of NMDA receptors.
electrophysiology; alcohol; ion channel; kinase; phosphorylation
Loss of motoneurons may underlie some of the deficits in motor function associated with CNS injuries and diseases. We tested whether melatonin, a potent antioxidant and free radical scavenger, would prevent motoneuron apoptosis following exposure to toxins and whether this neuroprotection is mediated by melatonin receptors. Exposure of VSC4.1 motoneurons to either 50 μM H2O2, 25 μM glutamate (LGA), or 50 ng/ml tumor necrosis factor-alpha (TNF-α) for 24 h caused significant increases in apoptosis, as determined by Wright staining and ApopTag assay. Analyses of mRNA and proteins showed increased expression and activities of stress kinases and cysteine proteases and loss of mitochondrial membrane potential during apoptosis. These insults also caused increases in intracellular free [Ca2+] and activities of calpain and caspases. Cells exposed to stress stimuli for 15 min were then treated with 200 nM melatonin. Post-treatment of cells with melatonin attenuated production of reactive oxygen species (ROS) and phosphorylation of p38, MAPK, and JNK1, prevented cell death, and maintained whole-cell membrane potential, indicating functional neuroprotection. Melatonin receptors (MT1 and MT2) were upregulated following treatment with melatonin. To confirm the involvement of MT1 and MT2 in providing neuroprotection, cells were post-treated (20 min) with 10 μM luzindole (melatonin receptor antagonist). Luzindole significantly attenuated melatonin-induced neuroprotection, suggesting that melatonin worked, at least in part, via its receptors to prevent VSC4.1 motoneuron apoptosis. Results suggest that neuroprotection rendered by melatonin to motoneurons is receptor mediated and melatonin may be an effective neuroprotective agent to attenuate motoneuron death in CNS injuries and diseases.
apoptosis; cytoprotective; glutamate; H2O2; melatonin; motoneurons; TNF-α
The granule cell layer of the cerebellum functions in spatio-temporal encoding of information. Granule cells (GCs) are tonically inhibited by spillover of GABA released from Golgi cells and this tonic inhibition is facilitated by acute ethanol. Recently, it was demonstrated that a specialized Ca2+-activated anion-channel, bestrophin1 (Best1), found on glial cells, can release GABA that contributes up to 50–75% of the tonic GABAergic current. However, it is unknown if ethanol has any actions on Best1 function. Using whole-cell electrophysiology, we found that recombinant Best1 channels expressed in HEK-293 cells were insensitive to 40 and 80 mM ethanol. We attempted to measure the Best1-mediated component of the tonic current in slices using 5-nitro-2-(3-phenylpropylamino)benzoic acid (NPPB). We confirmed that this agent blocks recombinant Best1 channels. Unexpectedly, we found that NPPB significantly potentiated the tonic current and the area and decay of GABAA-mediated spontaneous inhibitory post-synaptic currents (IPSCs) in GCs in rodent slices under two different recording conditions. To better isolate the Best1-dependent tonic current component, we blocked the Golgi cell component of the tonic current with tetrodotoxin and found that NPPB similarly and significantly potentiated the tonic current amplitude and decay time of miniature IPSCs. Two other Cl−-channel blockers were also tested: 4′-diisothiocyanatostilbene-2,2′-disulfonic acid disodium salt hydrate (DIDS) showed no effect on GABAergic transmission, while niflumic acid (NFA) significantly suppressed the tonic current noise, as well as the mIPSC frequency, amplitude, and area. These data suggest that acute ethanol exposure does not modulate Best1 channels and these findings serve to challenge recent data indicating that these channels participate in the generation of tonic GABAergic currents in cerebellar GCs.
bestrophin; tonic current; GABA; cerebellum; ethanol; NPPB; DIDS; NFA
Estrogen-mediated neuroprotection is observed in neurodegenerative disease and neurotrauama models; however, determining a mechanism for these effects has been difficult. We propose that estrogen may limit cell death in the nervous system tissue by inhibiting increases in intracellular free Ca2+. Here, we present data using VSC 4.1 cell line, a ventral spinal motoneuron and neuroblastoma hybrid cell line. Treatment with 1 mM glutamate for 24 h induced apoptosis. When cells were pre-treated with 100 nM 17β-estradiol (estrogen) for 1 h and then co-treated with glutamate, apoptotic death was significantly attenuated. Estrogen also prevented glutamate-mediated changes in resting membrane potential and membrane capacitance. Treatment with either 17α-estradiol or cell impermeable estrogen did not mimic the findings seen with estrogen. Glutamate treatment significantly increased both intracellular free Ca2+ and the activities of downstream proteases such as calpain and caspase-3. Estrogen attenuated both the increases in intracellular free Ca2+ and protease activities. In order to determine the pathway responsible for estrogen-mediated inhibition of these increases in intracellular free Ca2+, cells were treated with several Ca2+ entry inhibitors, but only the L-type Ca2+ channel blocker nifedipine demonstrated cytoprotective effects comparable to estrogen. To expand these findings, cells were treated with the L-type Ca2+ channel agonist FPL 64176, which increased both cell death and intracellular free Ca2+, and estrogen inhibited both effects. From these observations, we conclude that estrogen limits glutamate-induced cell death in VSC 4.1 cells through effects on L-type Ca2+ channels, inhibiting Ca2+ influx as well as activation of the pro-apoptotic proteases calpain and caspase-3.
Apoptosis; Calpain; Ca2+ influx; Caspase-3; Glutamate; Motoneurons; Nifedipine
Delayed-rectifier Kv2.1 channels are the principal component of voltage-sensitive K+ currents (IK) in hippocampal neurons and are critical regulators of somatodendritic excitability. In a recent study, we demonstrated that surface trafficking and phosphorylation of Kv2.1 channels is modulated by NMDA-type glutamate receptors and that astroglial excitatory amino acid transporters 2 (EAAT2) regulate the coupling of NMDA receptors and Kv2.1 channels. Since ethanol is known to acutely inhibit NMDA receptors, we sought to determine if NMDA receptor and astroglial EAAT2 modulation of Kv2.1 channels is impaired by ethanol in rodent hippocampus. As expected, bath application of NMDA to hippocampal cultures reduced the size of Kv2.1 clusters and produced a hyperpolarizing shift in the voltage-dependent activation of IK that was associated with dephosphorylated Kv2.1 channels. Ethanol, applied acutely, prevented the hyperpolarizing shift in activation of IK induced by NMDA and restored Kv2.1 clustering and phosphorylation to near control levels. Ethanol also attenuated the dephosphorylation of Kv2.1 channels produced by the EAAT2 selective inhibitor dihydrokainic acid. These data demonstrate that acute ethanol disrupts changes in Kv2.1 channels that follow NMDA receptor activation and impairs astroglial regulation of the functional coupling between NMDA receptors and Kv2.1 channels.
Kv2.1 channels; NMDA receptors; ethanol; astroglial EAAT2; phosphorylation; clustering
The present work investigated sites of ethanol action in ATP-gated P2X receptors (P2XRs) using chimeric strategies that exploited the differences in ethanol response between P2X2R (inhibition) and P2X3R (potentiation). We tested ethanol (10–200mM) effects on ATP- and α,β-methylene-ATP (α,β-meATP)-induced currents in wildtype P2X2, P2X3 and chimeric P2X2/P2X3Rs expressed in Xenopus oocytes using two-electrode voltage-clamp (−70mV). Exchanging ectodomain regions of P2X2 and P2X3Rs reversed wildtype ethanol responses. Substituting back portions of the P2X2R ectodomain at TM interfaces in chimeras that contained the P2X3R ectodomain restored wildtype P2X2R-like ethanol response. Point mutations that replaced non-conserved ectodomain residues at TM interfaces of P2X3Rs with homologous P2X2R residues identified positions that reversed the direction (304) or changed the magnitude (53, 55 and 313) of ethanol response. Homologous substitutions in P2X2Rs did not significantly alter wildtype P2X2R-like ethanol responses. These findings suggest that ectodomain segments at TM interfaces play key roles in determining qualitative and quantitative responses to ethanol of P2X2 and P2X3Rs. Studies that substituted TM regions of P2X3R with respective P2X2R TMs indicate that the TM1, but not the TM2, region plays a role in determining the magnitude of ethanol response. Studies with ATP and α,β-meATP support prior indications that TM regions are important in agonist desensitization and suggest that both ectodomain and TM regions play roles in determining agonist potency and selectivity. Overall, these findings are the first to identify potential targets for ethanol in P2X2 and P2X3Rs and should provide insight into the sites of ethanol action in other P2XRs.
Purinergic P2X receptors; Chimeric receptors; Sites of ethanol action; Alcohol; Xenopus oocytes; Electrophysiology
Delayed-rectifier Kv2.1 potassium channels regulate somatodendritic excitability during periods of repetitive, high-frequency activity. Recent evidence suggests Kv2.1 channel modulation is linked to glutamatergic neurotransmission. Since NMDA-type glutamate receptors are critical regulators of synaptic plasticity, we investigated NMDA receptor modulation of Kv2.1 channels in rodent hippocampus and cortex. Bath application of NMDA potently unclustered and dephosphorylated Kv2.1 and produced a hyperpolarizing shift in voltage-dependent activation of IK. In contrast, driving synaptic activity in Mg2+-free media to hyperactivate synaptic NMDA receptors had no effect on Kv2.1 channels, and moderate pentylenetetrazole-induced seizure activity in adult mice did not dephosphorylate hippocampal Kv2.1 channels. Selective activation of extrasynaptic NMDA receptors unclustered and dephosphorylated Kv2.1 channels and produced a hyperpolarizing shift in neuronal IK. In addition, inhibition of glutamate uptake rapidly activated NMDA receptors and dephosphorylated Kv2.1 channels. These observations demonstrate that regulation of intrinsic neuronal activity by Kv2.1 is coupled to extrasynaptic but not synaptic NMDA receptors. These data support a novel mechanism for glutamate transporters in regulation of neuronal excitability and plasticity through extrasynaptic NMDA receptor modulation of Kv2.1 channels.
Kv2.1 channels; NMDA receptors; extrasynaptic; astroglia; glutamate transporters; extracellular