Sensitivity of GABAergic Tonic Currents to Acute Ethanol in Cerebellar Granule Neurons is Not Age- or δ Subunit-Dependent in Developing Rats.
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The age of first exposure to ethanol (EtOH), as well as reduced sensitivity to its motor-impairing effects, are associated with a future predisposition to abuse EtOH. In adolescence, acute EtOH potentiates GABA transmission, including tonic inhibition mediated by δ-containing extrasynaptic GABAA receptors (GABAA Rs) in cerebellar granule neurons (CGNs), an effect that likely contributes to EtOH-induced motor impairment. Prenatal EtOH exposure is strikingly prevalent and is associated with increased EtOH abuse later in life; however, the acute effects of EtOH on GABA transmission in developing CGNs are unknown.Using whole-cell patch-clamp electrophysiological techniques in acute brain slices, we examined the acute effects of EtOH on GABA transmission and functionally assessed the role of δ-containing GABAA Rs in CGNs of preweanling (postnatal day [P] 12 to 14) and postweanling (P28 to 30) male Sprague-Dawley rats.The magnitude of basal tonic currents were similar at both ages. However, 4,5,6,7-Tetrahydroisoxazolo[5,4-c]pyridin-3-ol hydrochloride, an agonist with preferential affinity for δ-containing GABAA Rs, significantly potentiated tonic currents to a larger magnitude in CGNs from postweanlings compared to preweanlings. Conversely, acute application of EtOH (80 mM) significantly increased tonic currents and the frequency of spontaneous inhibitory postsynaptic currents to a similar extent in CGNs from pre- and postweanlings.These findings highlight the sensitivity of the developing cerebellum to EtOH. Furthermore, this study demonstrates age-dependent functional changes in a well-characterized circuitry that may contribute to the short- and long-term effects of prenatal exposure to EtOH.Copyright © 2016 by the Research Society on Alcoholism.