Modulation of calcium by inhibitory systems in the developing auditory midbrain

Y. J. Lo, S. C. Rao, D. H. Sanes

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Inhibitory synaptic transmission is of fundamental importance during the maturation of central auditory circuits, and their subsequent ability to process acoustic information. The present study investigated the manner in which inhibitory transmission regulates intracellular free calcium levels in the gerbil inferior colliculus using a brain slice preparation. Inhibitory and excitatory postsynaptic potentials were evoked by electrical stimulation of the ascending afferents at the level of the dorsal nucleus of the lateral lemniscus. Pharmacologically isolated inhibitory synaptic potentials were able to attenuate a calcium rise in collicular neurons that was generated by depolarizing current injection. In addition, GABA(A) and glycine receptor antagonists typically led to an increase of calcium in collicular neurons during electrical stimulation of the ascending afferent pathway at the level of the dorsal nucleus of the lateral lemniscus. Bath application of GABA or muscimol, a GABA(A) receptor agonist, evoked a brief hyperpolarization followed by a long-lasting depolarization in inferior colliculus neurons. This treatment also induced a transient calcium increase that correlated with the membrane depolarization phase. Baclofen, a GABA(B) receptor agonist, had no effect on either membrane potential or calcium levels. Ratiometric measures indicated that the muscimol-evoked rise in calcium was ≃ 150 nM above basal levels. The muscimol-evoked responses were completely antagonized by bicuculline and attenuated by picrotoxin. Together, these results suggest that inhibitory synaptic transmission participates in the regulation of postsynaptic calcium during the developmental period. Inhibitory transmission may attenuate a calcium influx that is evoked by excitatory synapses, but it can also produce a modest influx of calcium when activated alone. These mechanisms may help to explain the influence of inhibitory transmission on the development of postsynaptic properties.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1075-1084
Number of pages10
Issue number4
StatePublished - Jan 12 1998


  • Calcium
  • GABA
  • Glycine
  • Inferior colliculus
  • Muscimol
  • Plasticity
  • Synaptic inhibition

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Neuroscience


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