ABSTRACT: The cognitive function of the highly evolved dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (dlPFC) is greatly influenced by arousal state, and is gravely afflicted in disorders such as schizophrenia, where there are genetic insults in ?7 nicotinic acetylcholine receptors (?7-nAChRs). A recent behavioral study indicates that ACh depletion from dlPFC markedly impairs working memory [Croxson PL, Kyriazis DA, Baxter MG (2011) Nat Neurosci 14(12):1510-1512]; however, little is known about how ?7-nAChRs influence dlPFC cognitive circuits. Goldman-Rakic [Goldman-Rakic (1995) Neuron 14(3):477-485] discovered the circuit basis for working memory, whereby dlPFC pyramidal cells excite each other through glutamatergic NMDA receptor synapses to generate persistent network firing in the absence of sensory stimulation. Here we explore ?7-nAChR localization and actions in primate dlPFC and find that they are enriched in glutamate network synapses, where they are essential for dlPFC persistent firing, with permissive effects on NMDA receptor actions. Blockade of ?7-nAChRs markedly reduced, whereas low-dose stimulation selectively enhanced, neuronal representations of visual space. These findings in dlPFC contrast with the primary visual cortex, where nAChR blockade had no effect on neuronal firing [Herrero JL, et al. (2008) Nature 454(7208):1110-1114]. We additionally show that ?7-nAChR stimulation is needed for NMDA actions, suggesting that it is key for the engagement of dlPFC circuits. As ACh is released in cortex during waking but not during deep sleep, these findings may explain how ACh shapes differing mental states during wakefulness vs. sleep. The results also explain why genetic insults to ?7-nAChR would profoundly disrupt cognitive experience in patients with schizophrenia.
Project description:The aim of the present study was to identify in vivo electrophysiological correlates of the interaction between cholinergic and glutamatergic neurotransmission underlying memory. Extracellular spike recordings were performed in the hippocampal CA1 region of anesthetized rats in combination with local microiontophoretic administration of N-methyl-D-aspartate (NMDA) and acetylcholine (ACh). Both NMDA and ACh increased the firing rate of the neurons. Furthermore, the simultaneous delivery of NMDA and ACh resulted in a more pronounced excitatory effect that was superadditive over the sum of the two mono-treatment effects and that was explained by cholinergic potentiation of glutamatergic neurotransmission. Next, animals were systemically treated with scopolamine or methyllycaconitine (MLA) to assess the contribution of muscarinic ACh receptor (mAChR) or ?7 nicotinic ACh receptor (nAChR) receptor-mediated mechanisms to the observed effects. Scopolamine totally inhibited ACh-evoked firing, and attenuated the firing rate increase evoked by simultaneous application of NMDA and ACh. However, the superadditive nature of the combined effect was preserved. The ?7 nAChR antagonist MLA robustly decreased the firing response to simultaneous application of NMDA and ACh, suspending their superadditive effect, without modifying the tonic firing rate increasing effect of ACh. These results provide the first in vivo electrophysiological evidence that, in the hippocampal CA1 region, ?7 nAChRs contribute to pyramidal cell activity mainly through potentiation of glutamatergic signaling, while the direct cholinergic modulation of tonic firing is notably mediated by mAChRs. Furthermore, the present findings also reveal cellular physiological correlates of the interplay between cholinergic and glutamatergic agents in behavioral pharmacological models of cognitive decline.
Project description:Neurons in the primate dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (dlPFC) generate persistent firing in the absence of sensory stimulation, the foundation of mental representation. Persistent firing arises from recurrent excitation within a network of pyramidal Delay cells. Here, we examined glutamate receptor influences underlying persistent firing in primate dlPFC during a spatial working memory task. Computational models predicted dependence on NMDA receptor (NMDAR) NR2B stimulation, and Delay cell persistent firing was abolished by local NR2B NMDAR blockade or by systemic ketamine administration. AMPA receptors (AMPARs) contributed background depolarization to sustain network firing. In contrast, many Response cells were sensitive to AMPAR blockade and increased firing after systemic ketamine, indicating that models of ketamine actions should be refined to reflect neuronal heterogeneity. The reliance of Delay cells on NMDAR may explain why insults to NMDARs in schizophrenia or Alzheimer's disease profoundly impair cognition.
Project description:Neurons in primary visual cortex (V1) are more resilient than those in dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (dlPFC) in aging, schizophrenia and Alzheimer's disease. The current study compared glutamate and neuromodulatory actions in macaque V1 to those in dlPFC, and found striking regional differences. V1 neuronal firing to visual stimuli depended on AMPA receptors, with subtle NMDA receptor contributions, while dlPFC depends primarily on NMDA receptors. Neuromodulatory actions also differed between regions. In V1, cAMP signaling increased neuronal firing, and the phosphodiesterase PDE4A was positioned to regulate cAMP effects on glutamate release from axons. HCN channels in V1 were classically located on distal dendrites, and enhanced cell firing. These data contrast with dlPFC, where PDE4A and HCN channels are concentrated in thin spines, and cAMP-HCN signaling gates inputs and weakens firing. These regional differences may explain why V1 neurons are more resilient than dlPFC neurons to the challenges of age and disease.
Project description:Alpha7 nicotinic acetylcholine receptors (nAChRs) are promising novel targets for the treatment of neurocognitive disorders. Although the cognitive enhancer potential of alpha7 nAChR agonists and positive allosteric modulators (PAMs) has been confirmed in several preclinical animal models, there are only sparse in vivo electrophysiological data on their effects on the firing activity and excitability of neurons. The present study investigated and compared local effects of alpha7 nAChR agonist PHA-543613 and PAMs PNU-120596 and NS-1738 on the spontaneous and N-methyl-D-aspartate-evoked (NMDA-evoked) firing rate of rat CA1 hippocampal pyramidal cells, in vivo. Furthermore, effects of alpha7 nAChR antagonist methyllycaconitine (MLA) and GABA were also tested. Results showed substantially different effects of the alpha7 nAChR agonist and PAMs. While PNU-120596 and NS-1738 predominantly and significantly increased both spontaneous and NMDA-evoked firing rate of the neurons, application of PHA-543613 resulted in almost equal distribution of facilitatory and inhibitory effects. The increase of the NMDA-evoked firing rate exerted by NS-1738 was superadditive over the sum of the single effects of NMDA and NS-1738. The simultaneous application of alpha7 nAChR agonist PHA-543613 and PAM NS-1738 resulted in additive increase of both spontaneous and NMDA-evoked firing rate. However, NS-1738 counteracted inhibitory effects of PHA-543613 in 5 out of 6 neurons, resulting in a synergistic potentiation of their firing responses to NMDA. Our results suggest that alpha7 nAChR PAMs increase neuronal excitability more potently than agonists, while the remarkable occurrence of inhibitory effects of PHA-543613 (possibly originating from receptor desensitization) implies that agonists may exert neuroprotective effects.
Project description:Neuronal nicotinic acetylcholine receptor (nAChR) signaling has been implicated in a variety of normal central nervous system (CNS) functions as well as an array of neuropathologies. Previous studies have demonstrated both neurotoxic and neuroprotective actions of peptides derived from apolipoprotein E (apoE). It has been discovered that apoE-derived peptides inhibit native and recombinant alpha7-containing nAChRs, indicating a direct interaction between apoE peptides and nAChRs. To probe the structure/function interaction between alpha7 nAChRs and the apoE peptide apoE(141-148), experiments were conducted in Xenopus laevis oocytes expressing wild-type and mutated nAChRs. Mutation of Trp55 to alanine blocks apoE peptide-induced inhibition of acetylcholine (ACh)-mediated alpha7 nAChR responses. Additional mutations at Trp55 suggest that hydrophobic interactions between the receptor and apoE(141-148) are essential for inhibition of alpha7 nAChR function. A mutated apoE peptide also demonstrated decreased inhibition at alpha7-W55A nAChRs as well as activity-dependent inhibition of both wild-type alpha7 nAChRs and alpha7-W55A receptors. Finally, a three-dimensional model of the alpha7 nAChR was developed based on the recently refined Torpedo marmorata nACh receptor. A structural model is proposed for the binding of apoE(141-148) to the alpha7 nAChR where the peptide binds at the interface between two subunits, near the ACh binding site. Similar to the functional data, the computational docking suggests the importance of hydrophobic interactions between the alpha7 nAChR and the apoE peptide for inhibition of receptor function. The current data suggest a mode for apoE peptide binding that directly blocks alpha7 nAChR activity and consequently may disrupt nAChR signaling.
Project description:Nicotinic acetylcholine (ACh) receptors (nAChRs) are included among the targets of a variety of local anesthetics, although the molecular mechanisms of blockade are still poorly understood. Some local anesthetics, such as lidocaine, act on nAChRs by different means through their ability to present as both charged and uncharged molecules. Thus, we explored the mechanisms of nAChR blockade by tetracaine, which at physiological pH is almost exclusively present as a positively charged local anesthetic. The nAChRs from Torpedo electroplaques were transplanted to Xenopus oocytes and the currents elicited by ACh (IACh s), either alone or co-applied with tetracaine, were recorded. Tetracaine reversibly blocked IACh , with an IC50 (i.e., the concentration required to inhibit half the maximum IACh ) in the submicromolar range. Notably, at very low concentrations (0.1 ?M), tetracaine reduced IACh in a voltage-dependent manner, the more negative potentials produced greater inhibition, indicating open-channel blockade. When the tetracaine concentration was increased to 0.7 ?M or above, voltage-independent inhibition was also observed, indicating closed-channel blockade. The IACh inhibition by pre-application of just 0.7 ?M tetracaine before superfusion of ACh also corroborated the notion of tetracaine blockade of resting nAChRs. Furthermore, tetracaine markedly increased nAChR desensitization, mainly at concentrations equal or higher than 0.5 ?M. Interestingly, tetracaine did not modify desensitization when its binding within the channel pore was prevented by holding the membrane at positive potentials. Tetracaine-nAChR interactions were assessed by virtual docking assays, using nAChR models in the closed and open states. These assays revealed that tetracaine binds at different sites of the nAChR located at the extracellular and transmembrane domains, in both open and closed conformations. Extracellular binding sites seem to be associated with closed-channel blockade; whereas two sites within the pore, with different affinities for tetracaine, contribute to open-channel blockade and the enhancement of desensitization, respectively. These results demonstrate a concentration-dependent heterogeneity of tetracaine actions on nAChRs, and contribute to a better understanding of the complex modulation of muscle-type nAChRs by local anesthetics. Furthermore, the combination of functional and virtual assays to decipher nAChR-tetracaine interactions has allowed us to tentatively assign the main nAChR residues involved in these modulating actions.
Project description:Systemic exposure to nicotine induces glutamatergic synaptic plasticity on dopamine (DA) neurons in the ventral tegmental area (VTA), but mechanisms are largely unknown. Here, we report that single, systemic exposure in rats to nicotine (0.17 mg/kg free base) increases the ratio of DA neuronal currents mediated by AMPA relative to NMDA receptors (AMPA/NMDA ratio) assessed 24 h later, based on slice-patch recording. The AMPA/NMDA ratio increase is evident within 1 h and lasts for at least 72 h after nicotine exposure (and up to 8 d after repeated nicotine administration). This effect cannot be prevented by systemic injection of either ?7-nAChR (nicotinic ACh receptor)-selective [methyllycaconitine (MLA)] or ?2*-nAChR-selective [mecamylamine (MEC)] antagonists but is prevented by coinjection of MLA and MEC. In either nAChR ?7 or ?2 subunit knock-out mice, systemic exposure to nicotine still increases the AMPA/NMDA ratio. Preinjection in rats of a NMDA receptor antagonist MK-801((+)-5-methyl-10,11-dihydro-5H-dibenzo[a,d]cyclohepten-5,10-imine maleate), but neither DA receptor antagonists [SCH-23390 (R-(+)-7-chloro-8-hydroxy-3-methyl-1-phenyl-2,3,4,5-tetrahydro-1H-3-benzazepine) plus haloperidol] nor a calcineurin inhibitor (cyclosporine), prevents the nicotine-induced increase in AMPA/NMDA ratio. After systemic exposure to nicotine, glutamatergic (but not GABAergic) transmission onto rat VTA DA neuronal inputs is enhanced. Correspondingly, DA neuronal firing measured 24 h after nicotine exposure using extracellular single-unit recording in vivo is significantly faster, and there is conversion of silent to active DA neurons. Collectively, these findings demonstrate that systemic nicotine acting via either ?7- or ?2*-nAChRs increases presynaptic and postsynaptic glutamatergic function, and consequently initiates glutamatergic synaptic plasticity, which may be an important, early neuronal adaptation in nicotine reward and reinforcement.
Project description:Varenicline is a nicotinic acetylcholine receptor (nAChR) agonist used to treat nicotine addiction, but a live debate persists concerning its mechanism of action in reducing nicotine consumption. Although initially reported as ?4?2 selective, varenicline was subsequently shown to activate other nAChR subtypes implicated in nicotine addiction including ?3?4. However, it remains unclear whether activation of ?3?4 nAChRs by therapeutically relevant concentrations of varenicline is sufficient to affect the behavior of cells that express this subtype. We used patch-clamp electrophysiology to assess the effects of varenicline on native ?3?4* nAChRs (asterisk denotes the possible presence of other subunits) expressed in human adrenal chromaffin cells and compared its effects to those of nicotine. Varenicline and nicotine activated ?3?4* nAChRs with EC50 values of 1.8 (1.2-2.7) ?M and 19.4 (11.1-33.9) ?M, respectively. Stimulation of adrenal chromaffin cells with 10 ms pulses of 300 ?M acetylcholine (ACh) in current-clamp mode evoked sodium channel-dependent action potentials (APs). Under these conditions, perfusion of 50 or 100 nM varenicline showed very little effect on AP firing compared to control conditions (ACh stimulation alone), but at higher concentrations (250 nM) varenicline increased the number of APs fired up to 436 ± 150%. These results demonstrate that therapeutic concentrations of varenicline are unlikely to alter AP firing in chromaffin cells. In contrast, nicotine showed no effect on AP firing at any of the concentrations tested (50, 100, 250, and 500 nM). However, perfusion of 50 nM nicotine simultaneously with 100 nM varenicline increased AP firing by 290 ± 104% indicating that exposure to varenicline and nicotine concurrently may alter cellular behavior such as excitability and neurotransmitter release.
Project description:Acetylcholine (ACh) is a potent neuromodulator capable of modifying patterns of acoustic information flow. In auditory cortex, cholinergic systems have been shown to increase salience/gain while suppressing extraneous information. However, the mechanism by which cholinergic circuits shape signal processing in the auditory thalamus (medial geniculate body, MGB) is poorly understood. The present study, in male Fischer Brown Norway rats, seeks to determine the location and function of presynaptic neuronal nicotinic ACh receptors (nAChRs) at the major inputs to MGB and characterize how nAChRs change during aging. In vitro electrophysiological/optogenetic methods were used to examine responses of MGB neurons after activation of nAChRs during a paired-pulse paradigm. Presynaptic nAChR activation increased responses evoked by stimulation of excitatory corticothalamic and inhibitory tectothalamic terminals. Conversely, nAChR activation appeared to have little effect on evoked responses from inhibitory thalamic reticular nucleus and excitatory tectothalamic terminals. In situ hybridization data showed nAChR subunit transcripts in GABAergic inferior colliculus neurons and glutamatergic auditory cortical neurons supporting the present slice findings. Responses to nAChR activation at excitatory corticothalamic and inhibitory tectothalamic inputs were diminished by aging. These findings suggest that cholinergic input to the MGB increases the strength of tectothalamic inhibitory projections, potentially improving the signal-to-noise ratio and signal detection while increasing corticothalamic gain, which may facilitate top-down identification of stimulus identity. These mechanisms appear to be affected negatively by aging, potentially diminishing speech perception in noisy environments. Cholinergic inputs to the MGB appear to maximize sensory processing by adjusting both top-down and bottom-up mechanisms in conditions of attention and arousal.SIGNIFICANCE STATEMENT The pedunculopontine tegmental nucleus is the source of cholinergic innervation for sensory thalamus and is a critical part of an ascending arousal system that controls the firing mode of thalamic cells based on attentional demand. The present study describes the location and impact of aging on presynaptic neuronal nicotinic acetylcholine receptors (nAChRs) within the circuitry of the auditory thalamus (medial geniculate body, MGB). We show that nAChRs are located on ascending inhibitory and descending excitatory presynaptic inputs onto MGB neurons, likely increasing gain selectively and improving temporal clarity. In addition, we show that aging has a deleterious effect on nAChR efficacy. Cholinergic dysfunction at the level of MGB may affect speech understanding negatively in the elderly population.
Project description:Dopamine (DA) release in striatum is governed by firing rates of midbrain DA neurons, striatal cholinergic tone, and nicotinic ACh receptors (nAChRs) on DA presynaptic terminals. DA neurons selectively express alpha6* nAChRs, which show high ACh and nicotine sensitivity. To help identify nAChR subtypes that control DA transmission, we studied transgenic mice expressing hypersensitive alpha6(L9'S)* receptors. alpha6(L9'S) mice are hyperactive, travel greater distance, exhibit increased ambulatory behaviors such as walking, turning, and rearing, and show decreased pausing, hanging, drinking, and grooming. These effects were mediated by alpha6alpha4* pentamers, as alpha6(L9'S) mice lacking alpha4 subunits displayed essentially normal behavior. In alpha6(L9'S) mice, receptor numbers are normal, but loss of alpha4 subunits leads to fewer and less sensitive alpha6* receptors. Gain-of-function nicotine-stimulated DA release from striatal synaptosomes requires alpha4 subunits, implicating alpha6alpha4beta2* nAChRs in alpha6(L9'S) mouse behaviors. In brain slices, we applied electrochemical measurements to study control of DA release by alpha6(L9'S) nAChRs. Burst stimulation of DA fibers elicited increased DA release relative to single action potentials selectively in alpha6(L9'S), but not WT or alpha4KO/alpha6(L9'S), mice. Thus, increased nAChR activity, like decreased activity, leads to enhanced extracellular DA release during phasic firing. Bursts may directly enhance DA release from alpha6(L9'S) presynaptic terminals, as there was no difference in striatal DA receptor numbers or DA transporter levels or function in vitro. These results implicate alpha6alpha4beta2* nAChRs in cholinergic control of DA transmission, and strongly suggest that these receptors are candidate drug targets for disorders involving the DA system.