Pathway-specific targeting of GABAA receptor subtypes to somatic and dendritic synapses in the central amygdala

Andrew J. Delaney, Pankaj Sah

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

53 Citations (Scopus)


Neurons in the central amygdala express two distinct types of ionotropic GABA receptor. One is the classical GABAA receptor that is blocked by low concentrations of bicuculline and positively modulated by benzodiazepines. The other is a novel type of ionotropic GABA receptor that is less sensitive to bicuculline but blocked by the GABAC receptor antagonist (1,2,5,6-tetrohydropyridine-4-yl) methylphosphinic acid (TPMPA) and by benzodiazepines. In this study, we examine the distribution of these two receptor types. Recordings of GABAergic miniature inhibitory postsynaptic currents (mIPSCs) showed a wide variation in amplitude. Most events had amplitudes of <50 pA, but a small minority had amplitudes >100 pA. Large-amplitude events also had rise times faster than small-amplitude events. Large-amplitude events were fully blocked by 10 μM bicuculline but unaffected by TPMPA. Small amplitude events were partially blocked by both bicuculline and TPMPA. Focal application of hypertonic sucrose to the soma evoked large-amplitude mIPSCs, whereas focal dendritic application of sucrose evoked small-amplitude mIPSCs. Thus inhibitory synapses on the dendrites of neurons in the central amygdala express both types of GABA receptor, but somatic synapses expressed purely GABAA receptors. Minimal stimulation revealed that inhibitory inputs arising from the laterally located intercalated cells innervate dendritic synapses, whereas inhibitory inputs of medial origin innervated somatic inhibitory synapses. These results show that different types of ionotropic GABA receptors are targeted to spatially and functionally distinct synapses. Thus benzodiazepines will have different modulatory effects on different inhibitory pathways in the central amygdala.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)717-723
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Neurophysiology
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2001


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