GABA release by hippocampal astrocytes
MetadataShow full item record
Frontiers in Computational Neuroscience 6(59) : (2012)
Astrocytes can directly influence neuronal activity through the release of various transmitters acting on membrane receptors expressed by neurons. However, in contrast to glutamate and ATP for instance, the release of GABA (gamma-amino-butyric acid) by astrocytes is still poorly documented. Here, we used whole-cell recordings in rat acute brain slices and electron microscopy to test whether hippocampal astrocytes release the inhibitory transmitter GABA. We observed that slow transient inhibitory currents due to the activation of GABA(A) receptors occur spontaneously in principal neurons of the three main hippocampal fields (CA1, CA3, and dentate gyrus). These currents share characteristics with the slow NMDA receptor-mediated currents previously shown to result from astrocytic glutamate release: they occur in the absence of synaptic transmission and have variable kinetics and amplitudes as well as low frequencies. Osmotic pressure reduction, known to enhance transmitter release from astrocytes, similarly increased the frequency of non-synaptic GABA and glutamate currents. Simultaneous occurrence of slow inhibitory and excitatory currents was extremely rare. Yet, electron microscopy examination of immunostained hippocampal sections shows that about 80% of hippocampal astrocytes [positive for glial fibrillary acidic protein (GFAP)] were immunostained for GABA. Our results provide quantitative characteristics of the astrocyte-to-neuron GABAergic signaling. They also suggest that all principal neurons of the hippocampal network are under a dual, excitatory and inhibitory, influence of astrocytes. The relevance of the astrocytic release of GABA, and glutamate, on the physiopathology of the hippocampus remains to be established.