Cortical GABAergic synapses exhibit a high degree of molecular, anatomical and functional heterogeneity of their neurons of origins, presynaptic mechanisms, receptors, and scaffolding proteins. GABA transporters (GATs) have an important role in regulating GABA levels; among them, GAT-1 and GAT-3 play a prominent role in modulating tonic and phasic GABAAR-mediated inhibition. We asked whether GAT-1 and GAT-3 contribute to generating heterogeneity by studying their ultrastructural localization at cortical symmetric synapses using pre- and post-embedding electron microcopy. GAT-1 and GAT-3 staining at symmetric synapses showed that in some cases the transporters were localized exclusively over axon terminals; in others they were in both axon terminals and perisynaptic astrocytic processes; and in some others GAT-1 and GAT-3 were in perisynaptic astrocytic processes only. Moreover, we showed that the organizational pattern of GAT-1, but not of GAT-3, exhibits a certain degree of specificity related to the post-synaptic target of GABAergic synapses. These findings show that symmetric synapses expressing GAT-1 or GAT-3 are heterogeneous, and indicate that plasma membrane transporters can contribute to synaptic heterogeneity.
GABA; GABA transporters; GAT-1; GAT-3; symmetric synapses; heterogeneity
Astrocytes play a key role in modulating synaptic transmission by controlling extracellular gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) levels via GAT-1 and GAT-3 GABA transporters (GATs). Using primary cultures of rat astrocytes, we show here that a further level of regulation of GABA uptake occurs via modulation of the GATs by the adenosine A1 (A1R) and A2A (A2AR) receptors. This regulation occurs through A1R–A2AR heteromers that signal via two different G proteins, Gs and Gi/0, and either enhances (A2AR) or inhibits (A1R) GABA uptake. These results provide novel mechanistic insight into how GPCR heteromers signal. Furthermore, we uncover a previously unknown mechanism where adenosine, in a concentration-dependent manner, acts via a heterocomplex of adenosine receptors in astrocytes to significantly contribute to neurotransmission at the tripartite (neuron–glia–neuron) synapse.
Adenosine heteromers; G protein coupling; GABA transporters; Astrocytes
Analysis of presynaptic protein expression in glutamatergic and GABAergic central synapses performed in several laboratories and with different techniques is unveiling a complex scenario, largely because each presynaptic protein exists in several isoforms. The interpretation of these findings is generally based on the notion that each synapse and each synaptic vesicle contains one of the isoforms of each family of presynaptic proteins. We verified whether this interpretation is tenable by performing triple labeling and immunoisolation studies with the aim of detecting two isoforms of a given presynaptic protein in glutamatergic or GABAergic axon terminals and/or synaptic vesicles (SVs). Here, we show that: (1) the possibility that not all families of presynaptic proteins are expressed in all terminals must be taken into serious account; (2) the expression of a given protein isoform in a terminal does not exclude the expression of other isoforms of the same protein in the same terminal and in the same vesicle. These conclusions open new and interesting problems; their experimental analysis might improve our understanding of the physiology and pathophysiology of central synapses.
GABA synapse; glutamate synapse; heterogeneity; SVs; isoforms
The glutamate transporter GLT-1 is responsible for the largest proportion of total glutamate transport. Recently, it has been demonstrated that ceftriaxone (CEF) robustly increases GLT-1 expression. In addition, physiological studies have shown that GLT-1 up-regulation strongly affects synaptic plasticity, and leads to an impairment of the prepulse inhibition, a simple form of information processing, thus suggesting that GLT-1 over-expression may lead to dysfunctions of large populations of neurons. To test this possibility, we assessed whether CEF affects cortical electrical activity by using chronic electroencephalographic (EEG) recordings in male WKY rats. Spectral analysis showed that 8 days of CEF treatment resulted in a delayed reduction in EEG theta power (7–9 Hz) in both frontal and parietal derivations. This decrease peaked at day 10, i.e., 2 days after the end of treatment, and disappeared by day 16. In addition, we found that the same CEF treatment increased motor activity, especially when EEG changes are more prominent. Taken together, these data indicate that GLT-1 up-regulation, by modulating glutamatergic transmission, impairs the activity of widespread neural circuits. In addition, the increased motor activity and prepulse inhibition alterations previously described suggest that neural circuits involved in sensorimotor control are particularly sensitive to GLT-1 up-regulation.
The main glutamate transporter GLT-1 is responsible for clearing synaptically released glutamate from the extracellular space and contributes to the shaping of glutamatergic transmission. Recently, it has been shown that ceftriaxone (CEF)-induced GLT-1 upregulation is associated with an impairment of the prepulse inhibition (PPI) of the startle reflex, a simple form of information processing that is reduced in schizophrenia, and determines a strong reduction in hippocampal metabotropic glutamate receptor (mGluR)2/3-dependent long-term depression. In this study, we tested the hypothesis that administration of the mGluR2/3 agonist LY379268 blocks the effect of GLT-1 upregulation on PPI of the startle. We showed that administration of LY379268 (1 mg/kg) prevented PPI alterations associated with GLT-1 upregulation, suggesting that CEF-induced PPI impairment was mGluR2/3 dependent. In addition, we showed that CEF-induced GLT-1 upregulaton did not alter the expression of mGluR2/3, and also that it occurred at sites of mGluR2/3 expression. These results indicate a novel mechanism by which GLT-1 upregulation modulates PPI of the startle.
glutamate transporters; GLT-1; metabotropic glutamate receptors; prepulse inhibition; Glutamate; Neurochemistry; Schizophrenia/Antipsychotics; Transporters; glutamate transporters; GLT-1; MEtabotropic glutamate receptors; Prepulse inhibition of the startle reflex
In monoamine-releasing terminals, neurotransmitter transporters – in addition to terminating synaptic transmission by clearing released transmitters from the extracellular space – are the primary mechanism for replenishing transmitter stores and thus regulate presynaptic homeostasis. Here, we analyze whether GAT-1, the main plasma membrane GABA transporter, plays a similar role in GABAergic terminals. Re-examination of existing literature and recent data gathered in our laboratory show that GABA homeostasis in GABAergic terminals is dominated by the activity of the GABA synthesizing enzyme and that GAT-1-mediated GABA transport contributes to cytosolic GABA levels. However, analysis of GAT-1 KO, besides demonstrating the effects of reduced clearance, reveals the existence of changes compatible with an impaired presynaptic function, as miniature IPSCs frequency is reduced by one-third and glutamic acid decarboxylases and phosphate-activated glutaminase levels are significantly up-regulated. Although the changes observed are less robust than those reported in mice with impaired dopamine, noradrenaline, and serotonin plasma membrane transporters, they suggest that in GABAergic terminals GAT-1 impacts on presynaptic GABA homeostasis, and may contribute to the activity-dependent regulation of inhibitory efficacy.
GABA; GABA transporters; GAT-1; mIPSCs; knock-out mice
We investigated whether cortical glutamatergic and GABAergic release machineries can be differentiated on the basis of the nature and amount of proteins they express, by performing a quantitative analysis of the degree of co-localization of synaptotagmin (SYT) 1 and 2, synaptic vesicle protein 2 (SV2) A and B, and Rab3a and c in VGLUT1+, VGLUT2+, and VGAT+ terminals and synaptic vesicles (SVs) in rat cerebral cortex. Co-localization studies showed that VGLUT1 puncta had high levels of SV2A and B and of Rab3c, intermediate levels of SYT1, and low levels of SYT2 and Rab3c; VGLUT2 puncta exhibited intermediate levels of all presynaptic proteins studied; whereas vesicular GABA transporter (VGAT) puncta had high levels of SV2A and SYT2, intermediate levels of SYT1, Rab3a, and Rab3c, and low levels of SV2B. Since SV2B is reportedly expressed by glutamatergic neurons and we observed SV2B expression in VGAT puncta, we performed electron microscopic studies and found SV2B positive axon terminals forming symmetric synapses. Immunoisolation studies showed that the expression levels of the protein isoforms varied in the three populations of SVs. Expression of SYT1 was highest in VGLUT1–SVs, while SYT2 expression was similar in the three SV groups. Expression of SV2A was similarly high in all three SV populations, except for SV2B levels that were very low in VGAT SVs. Finally, Rab3a levels were similar in the three SV groups, while Rab3c levels were highest in VGLUT1–SVs. These quantitative results extend our previous studies on the differential expression of presynaptic proteins involved in neurotransmitter release in GABAergic and glutamatergic terminals and indicate that heterogeneity of the respective release machineries can be generated by the differential complement of SV proteins involved in distinct stages of the release process.
VGAT; VGLUT1; VGLUT2; synaptotagmin; SV2; Rab3
We used light and electron microscopic immunocytochemical techniques to analyze the distribution, cellular and synaptic localization of EAAT2, the main glutamate transporter, in normal human neocortex. EAAT2a-immunoreactivity (ir) was in all layers and consisted of small neuropilar puncta and rare cells. In white matter EAAT2a+ cells were numerous. Electron microscopic studies showed that in gray matter ∼77% of immunoreactive elements were astrocytic processes, ∼14% axon terminals, ∼2.8% dendrites, whereas ∼5% were unidentifiable. In white matter, ∼81% were astrocytic processes, ∼17% were myelinated axons, and ∼2.0% were unidentified. EAAT2a-ir was never in microglial cells and oligodendrocytes. Pre-embedding electron microscopy showed that ∼67% of EAAT2a expressed at (or in the vicinity of) asymmetric synapses was in astrocytes, ∼17% in axon terminals, while ∼13% was both in astrocytes and in axons. Post-embedding electron microscopy studies showed that in astrocytic processes contacting asymmetric synapses and in axon terminals, gold particle density was ∼25.1 and ∼2.8 particles/μm2, respectively, and was concentrated in a membrane region extending for ∼300 nm from the active zone edge. Besides representing the first detailed description of EAAT2a in human cerebral cortex, these findings may contribute to understanding its role in the pathophysiology of neuropsychiatric diseases.
Glutamate transporters; EAAT2; human neocortex; immunogold post-embedding electron microscopy
GLT-1 eGFP BAC reporter transgenic adult mice were used to detect GLT-1 gene expression in individual cells of CA1, CA3 and SI, and eGFP fluorescence was measured to analyze quantitatively GLT-1 promoter activity in different cells of neocortex and hippocampus. Virtually all GFAP+ astrocytes were eGFP+; we also found that about 80% of neurons in CA3 pyramidal layer, 10–70% of neurons in I-VI layers of SI and rare neurons in all strata of CA1 and in strata oriens and radiatum of CA3 were eGFP+. Analysis of eGFP intensity showed that astrocytes had a higher GLT-1 promoter activity in SI than in CA1 and CA3, and that neurons had the highest levels of GLT-1 promoter activity in CA3 stratum pyramidale and in layer VI of SI. Finally, we observed that the intensity of GLT-1 promoter activity in neurons is 1–20% of that measured in astrocytes. These results showed that in the hippocampus and neocortex GLT-1 promoter activity is observed in astrocytes and neurons, detailed the distribution of GLT-1 expressing neurons, and indicated that GLT-1 promoter activity in both astrocytes and neurons varies in different brain regions.
glutamate transporters; GLT-1/EAAT2; neurons; astrocytes; hippocampus; neocortex