Sequential Interplay of Nicotinic and GABAergic Signaling Guides Neuronal Development

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Science  08 Dec 2006:
Vol. 314, Issue 5805, pp. 1610-1613
DOI: 10.1126/science.1134246

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GABA (γ-aminobutyric acid), the major inhibitory transmitter in the brain, goes through a transitory phase of excitation during development. The excitatory phase promotes neuronal growth and integration into circuits. We show here that spontaneous nicotinic cholinergic activity is responsible for terminating GABAergic excitation and initiating inhibition. It does so by changing chloride transporter levels, shifting the driving force on GABA-induced currents. The timing of the transition is critical, because the two phases of GABAergic signaling provide contrasting developmental instructions. Synergistic with nicotinic excitation, GABAergic inhibition constrains neuronal morphology and innervation. The results reveal a multitiered activity-dependent strategy controlling neuronal development.

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