Zinc Selectively Blocks Neurosteroid-Sensitive Extrasynaptic GABAA Receptors in the Hippocampus.
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UNLABELLED: Zinc (Zn(2+)) is an essential cofactor in mammalian cells and neurons. Zn(2+) is released from synaptic vesicles of certain nerve terminals in the hippocampus during neuronal activity. Zn(2+) has been shown to inhibit synaptic GABAA receptors and alter the hippocampal network excitability. However, the ability of Zn(2+) to block extrasynaptic receptors remains unclear. Endogenous neurosteroids, such as allopregnanolone (AP), regulate neuronal excitability by allosteric activation of synaptic and extrasynaptic GABAA receptors. Neurosteroids activate extrasynaptic GABAA receptor-mediated tonic inhibition in dentate gyrus granule cells (DGGCs), thereby contributing to the regulation of downstream circuit excitability. Here we report a novel inhibitory role of Zn(2+) at neurosteroid-sensitive, extrasynaptic GABAA receptors by electrophysiological recordings in DGGCs from adult mice. Zn(2+) displayed a concentration-dependent, reversible noncompetitive blockade of AP-sensitive tonic current in DGGCs (IC50, 16 m). Tonic current was fully blocked by Zn(2+), akin to the GABAA receptor antagonist gabazine. Zn(2+) inhibition of tonic current was lacking in DGGCs from -subunit knock-out mice. Moreover, AP-activated synaptic receptor-mediated phasic currents were not affected by Zn(2+) Finally, intrahippocampal infusion of Zn(2+) elicited rapid epileptiform activity and significantly blocked the antiseizure activity of AP in the kindling model of epilepsy. Thus, Zn(2+) inhibition of neurosteroid-sensitive, extrasynaptic GABAA receptors in the hippocampus has direct implications in many brain hyperexcitability conditions, such as seizures, epileptogenesis, and epilepsy. Zn(2+) interactions may aid to further understand the physiology of extrasynaptic GABAA receptors. SIGNIFICANCE STATEMENT: Zn(2+) is most abundant in the synaptic vesicles of hippocampal mossy fibers. Zn(2+) release occurs with neuronal excitation, including seizure events, and exerts powerful excitability effects in the hippocampus circuits. Zn(2+) inhibits synaptic GABAA receptors, but its interaction is less well appreciated at the extrasynaptic receptors, which respond sensitively to endogenous neurosteroids. Here, we describe selective functional blockade by Zn(2+) of neurosteroid-sensitive, extrasynaptic GABAA receptors in the mouse hippocampus dentate gyrus, a key region associated with epilepsy and memory disorders. By demonstrating that extracellular Zn(2+) prevents neurosteroid augmentation of tonic current and protection against limbic seizures, our findings provide novel implications of this potential antagonistic interaction in a variety of neurological conditions.