Modulation of GABAergic Synaptic Transmission by NMDA Receptors in the Dorsal Horn of the Spinal Cord

"The dorsal horn (DH) of the spinal cord is an important structure involved in the integration of nociceptive messages. Plastic changes in the properties of neuronal networks in the DH underlie the development of analgesia as well as of hyperalgesia and allodynia in acute and chronic pain states. Two key mechanisms are involved in these chronic pain states: increased electrical activities and glutamate release leading to the recruitment of NMDAr and plastic changes in the synaptic inhibition. Although: (1) the balance between excitation and inhibition is known to play a critical role in the spinal network; and (2) plastic changes in spinal excitation and inhibition have been studied separately, the relationship between these two mechanisms has not been investigated in detail. In the present work, we addressed the role of NMDA receptors in the modulation of GABAergic synaptic transmission in the DH network. Using tight-seal whole-cell recordings on adult mice DH neurons, we characterized the effect of NMDAr activation on inhibitory synaptic transmission and more especially on the GABAergic one. Our results show that, in a subset of neurons recorded in lamina II, NMDAr activation facilitates spontaneous and miniature GABAergic synaptic transmission with a target specificity on GABAergic interneurons. In contrast, NMDA reduced the mean amplitude of evoked GABAergic IPSCs. These results show that NMDAr modulate GABAergic transmission by a presynaptic mechanism of action. Using a pharmacological approach, we investigated the composition of NMDAr involved in this modulation of GABAergic synaptic transmission. We found that the NMDA-induced facilitation was mediated by the activation of NMDAr containing GluN2C/D subunits. Altogether, our results bring new insights on nociceptive information processing in the spinal cord network and plastic changes in synaptic inhibition that could underlie the development and maintenance of chronic pain."


Benjamin Leonardon, Lou Cathenaut, Louise Vial-Markiewicz, Sylvain Hugel, Rémy Schlichter and Perrine Inquimbert

See the publication