Functional reconstitution of glycinergic synapses incorporating defined glycine receptor subunit combinations.

Research paper by Yan Y Zhang, Christine L CL Dixon, Angelo A Keramidas, Joseph W JW Lynch

Indexed on: 03 Dec '14Published on: 03 Dec '14Published in: Neuropharmacology


Glycine receptor (GlyR) chloride channels mediate fast inhibitory neurotransmission in the spinal cord and brainstem. Four GlyR subunits (α1-3, β) have been identified in humans, and their differential anatomical distributions underlie a diversity of synaptic isoforms with unique physiological and pharmacological properties. To improve our understanding of these properties, we induced the formation of recombinant synapses between cultured spinal neurons and HEK293 cells expressing GlyR subunits of interest plus the synapse-promoting molecule, neuroligin-2A. In the heterosynapses thus formed, recombinant α1β and α3β GlyRs mediated fast decaying inhibitory postsynaptic currents (IPSCs) whereas α2β GlyRs mediated slow decaying IPSCs. These results are consistent with the fragmentary information available from native synapses and single channel kinetic studies. As β subunit incorporation is considered essential for localizing GlyRs at the synapse, we were surprised that α1-3 homomers supported robust IPSCs with β subunit incorporation accelerating IPSC rise and decay times in α2β and α3β heteromers only. Finally, heterosynapses incorporating α1(D80A)β and α1(A52S)β GlyRs exhibited accelerated IPSC decay rates closely resembling those recorded in native synapses from mutant mice homozygous for these mutations, providing an additional validation of our technique. Glycinergic heterosynapses should prove useful for evaluating the effects of drugs, hereditary disease mutations or other interventions on defined GlyR subunit combinations under realistic synaptic activation conditions.