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  1. Neurons are remarkably polarized structures: dendrites spread and branch to receive synaptic inputs while a single axon extends and transmits action potentials (APs) to downstream targets. Neuronal polarity is maintained by the axon initial segment (AIS), a region between the soma and axon proper that is also the site of action potential (AP) generation. This polarization between dendrites and axons extends to inhibitory neurotransmission. In adulthood, the neurotransmitter GABA hyperpolarizes dendrites but instead depolarizes axons. These differences in function collide at the AIS. Multiple studies have shown that GABAergic signaling in this region can share properties of either the mature axon or mature dendrite, and that these properties evolve over a protracted period encompassing periadolescent development. Here, we explored how developmental changes in GABAergic signaling affect AP initiation. We show that GABA at the axon initial segment inhibits action potential initiation in layer (L)2/3 pyramidal neurons in prefrontal cortex from mice of either sex across GABA reversal potentials observed in periadolescence. These actions occur largely through current shunts generated by GABAAreceptors and changes in voltage-gated channel properties that affected the number of channels that could be recruited for AP electrogenesis. These results suggest that GABAergic neurons targeting the axon initial segment provide an inhibitory “veto” across the range of GABA polarity observed in normal adolescent development, regardless of GABAergic synapse reversal potential.

    Significance StatementGABA receptors are a major class of neurotransmitter receptors in the brain. Typically, GABA receptors inhibit neurons by allowing influx of negatively charged chloride ions into the cell. However, there are cases where local chloride concentrations promote chloride efflux through GABA receptors. Such conditions exist early in development in neocortical pyramidal cell axon initial segments (AISs), where action potentials (APs) initiate. Here, we examined how chloride efflux in early development interacts with mechanisms that support action potential initiation. We find that this efflux, despite moving membrane potential closer to action potential threshold, is nevertheless inhibitory. Thus, GABA at the axon initial segment is likely to be inhibitory for action potential initiation independent of whether chloride flows out or into neurons via these receptors.

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  2. Abstract

    Genetic variants in SCN2A, encoding the NaV1.2 voltage-gated sodium channel, are associated with a range of neurodevelopmental disorders with overlapping phenotypes. Some variants fit into a framework wherein gain-of-function missense variants that increase neuronal excitability lead to developmental and epileptic encephalopathy, while loss-of-function variants that reduce neuronal excitability lead to intellectual disability and/or autism spectrum disorder (ASD) with or without co-morbid seizures. One unique case less easily classified using this framework is the de novo missense variant SCN2A-p.K1422E, associated with infant-onset developmental delay, infantile spasms and features of ASD. Prior structure–function studies demonstrated that K1422E substitution alters ion selectivity of NaV1.2, conferring Ca2+ permeability, lowering overall conductance and conferring resistance to tetrodotoxin (TTX). Based on heterologous expression of K1422E, we developed a compartmental neuron model incorporating variant channels that predicted reductions in peak action potential (AP) speed. We generated Scn2aK1422E mice and characterized effects on neurons and neurological/neurobehavioral phenotypes. Cultured cortical neurons from heterozygous Scn2aK1422E/+ mice exhibited lower current density with a TTX-resistant component and reversal potential consistent with mixed ion permeation. Recordings from Scn2aK1442E/+ cortical slices demonstrated impaired AP initiation and larger Ca2+ transients at the axon initial segment during the rising phase of the AP, suggesting complex effects on channel function. Scn2aK1422E/+ mice exhibited rare spontaneous seizures, interictal electroencephalogram abnormalities, altered induced seizure thresholds, reduced anxiety-like behavior and alterations in olfactory-guided social behavior. Overall, Scn2aK1422E/+ mice present with phenotypes similar yet distinct from other Scn2a models, consistent with complex effects of K1422E on NaV1.2 channel function.

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