NMDA receptor activation enhances inhibitory GABAergic transmission onto hippocampal pyramidal neurons via presynaptic and postsynaptic mechanisms.J Neurophysiol 2011; 105(6):2897-906JN
N-methyl-D-aspartate (NMDA) receptors (NMDARs) are implicated in synaptic plasticity and modulation of glutamatergic excitatory transmission. Effect of NMDAR activation on inhibitory GABAergic transmission remains largely unknown. Here, we report that a brief application of NMDA could induce two distinct actions in CA1 pyramidal neurons in mouse hippocampal slices: 1) an inward current attributed to activation of postsynaptic NMDARs; and 2) fast phasic synaptic currents, namely spontaneous inhibitory postsynaptic currents (sIPSCs), mediated by GABA(A) receptors in pyramidal neurons. The mean amplitude of sIPSCs was also increased by NMDA. This profound increase in the sIPSC frequency and amplitude was markedly suppressed by the sodium channel blocker TTX, whereas the frequency and mean amplitude of miniature IPSCs were not significantly affected by NMDA, suggesting that NMDA elicits repetitive firing in GABAergic interneurons, thereby leading to GABA release from multiple synaptic sites of single GABAergic axons. We found that the NMDAR open-channel blocker MK-801 injected into recorded pyramidal neurons suppressed the NMDA-induced increase of sIPSCs, which raises the possibility that the firing of interneurons may not be the sole factor and certain retrograde messengers may also be involved in the NMDA-mediated enhancement of GABAergic transmission. Our results from pharmacological tests suggest that the nitric oxide signaling pathway is mobilized by NMDAR activation in CA1 pyramidal neurons, which in turn retrogradely facilitates GABA release from the presynaptic terminals. Thus NMDARs at glutamatergic synapses on both CA1 pyramidal neurons and interneurons appear to exert feedback and feedforward inhibition for determining the spike timing of the hippocampal microcircuit.