mGluR1, but not mGluR5, activates feed-forward inhibition in the medial prefrontal cortex to impair decision making

Hao Sun, Volker Neugebauer


Cognitive flexibility depends on the integrity of the prefrontal cortex (PFC). We showed previously that impaired decision making in pain results from amygdala-driven inhibition of medial PFC neurons, but the underlying mechanisms remain to be determined. Using whole cell patch clamp in rat brain slices and a cognitive behavioral task, we tested the hypothesis that group I metabotropic glutamate receptors (mGluRs) activate feed-forward inhibition to decrease excitability and output function of PFC pyramidal cells, thus impairing decision making. Polysynaptic inhibitory postsynaptic currents (IPSCs) and monosynaptic excitatory postsynaptic currents (EPSCs) were evoked in layer V pyramidal cells by stimulating presumed amygdala afferents. An mGluR1/5 agonist [(S)-3,5-dihydroxyphenylglycine, DHPG] increased synaptic inhibition more strongly than excitatory transmission. The facilitatory effects were blocked by an mGluR1 [(S)-(+)-α-amino-4-carboxy-2-methylbenzeneacetic acid, LY367385], but not mGluR5, antagonist, 3-[(2-methyl-1,3-thiazol-4-yl)ethynyl]pyridine. IPSCs were blocked by bicuculline and decreased by 2,3-dioxo-6-nitro-1,2,3,4-tetrahydrobenzo[f]quinoxaline-7-sulfonamide disodium salt (NBQX). Facilitation of synaptic inhibition by DHPG was glutamate driven because it was blocked by NBQX. DHPG increased frequency but not amplitude of spontaneous IPSCs; consistent with action potential-dependent synaptic inhibition, tetrodotoxin (TTX) prevented the facilitatory effects. DHPG decreased synaptically evoked spikes (E-S coupling) and depolarization-induced spiking [frequency-current (f-I) relationship]. This effect was indirect, resulting from glutamate-driven synaptic inhibition, because it persisted when a G protein blocker was included in the pipette but was blocked by GABAA receptor antagonists and NBQX. In contrast, DHPG increased E-S coupling and f-I relationships in mPFC interneurons through a presynaptic action, further supporting the concept of feed-forward inhibition. DHPG also impaired the ability of the animals to switch strategies in a decision-making task; bicuculline restored normal decision making, whereas a GABAA receptor agonist (muscimol) mimicked the decision-making deficit. The results show that mGluR1 activates feed-forward inhibition of PFC pyramidal cells to impair cognitive functions.

  • metabotropic glutamate receptor
  • cognition
  • pain
  • synaptic plasticity
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