Long-lasting self-inhibition of neocortical interneurons mediated by endocannabinoids

September 15, 2004

Alberto Bacci, John R. Huguenard & David A. Prince, Nature

Neocortical GABA-containing interneurons form complex functional networks responsible for feedforward and feedback inhibition and for the generation of cortical oscillations associated with several behavioural functions. We previously reported that fast-spiking (FS), but not low-threshold-spiking (LTS), neocortical interneurons from rats generate a fast and precise self-inhibition mediated by inhibitory autaptic transmission. Here we show that LTS cells possess a different form of self-inhibition.

LTS, but not FS, interneurons undergo a prominent hyperpolarization mediated by an increased K+-channel conductance. This self-induced inhibition lasts for many minutes, is dependent on an increase in intracellular [Ca2+] and is blocked by the cannabinoid receptor antagonist AM251, indicating that it is mediated by the autocrine release of endogenous cannabinoids. Endocannabinoid-mediated slow self-inhibition represents a powerful and long-lasting mechanism that alters the intrinsic excitability of LTS neurons, which selectively target the major site of excitatory connections onto pyramidal neurons; that is, their dendrites. Thus, modulation of LTS networks after their sustained firing will lead to long-lasting changes of glutamate-mediated synaptic strength in pyramidal neurons, with consequences during normal and pathophysiological cortical network activities.

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