Functional characterization of GABAergic pallidopallidal and striatopallidal synapses in the rat globus pallidus in vitro

Robert E. Sims, Gavin L. Woodhall, Clare L. Wilson, Ian M. Stanford

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As a central integrator of basal ganglia function, the external segment of the globus pallidus (GP) plays a critical role in the control of voluntary movement. Driven by intrinsic mechanisms and excitatory glutamatergic inputs from the subthalamic nucleus, GP neurons receive GABAergic inhibitory input from the striatum (Str-GP) and from local collaterals of neighbouring pallidal neurons (GP-GP). Here we provide electrophysiological evidence for functional differences between these two inhibitory inputs. The basic synaptic characteristics of GP-GP and Str-GP GABAergic synapses were studied using whole-cell recordings with paired-pulse and train stimulation protocols and variance-mean (VM) analysis. We found (i) IPSC kinetics are consistent with local collaterals innervating the soma and proximal dendrites of GP neurons whereas striatal inputs innervate more distal regions. (ii) Compared to GP-GP synapses Str-GP synapses have a greater paired-pulse ratio, indicative of a lower probability of release. This was confirmed using VM analysis. (iii) In response to 20 and 50 Hz train stimulation, GP-GP synapses are weakly facilitatory in 1 mm external calcium and depressant in 2.4 mm calcium. This is in contrast to Str-GP synapses which display facilitation under both conditions. This is the first quantitative study comparing the properties of GP-GP and Str-GP synapses. The results are consistent with the differential location of these inhibitory synapses and subtle differences in their release probability which underpin stable GP-GP responses and robust short-term facilitation of Str-GP responses. These fundamental differences may provide the physiological basis for functional specialization.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2401-2408
Number of pages8
JournalEuropean Journal of Neuroscience
Issue number12
Early online date9 May 2008
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2008


  • basal ganglia
  • IPSC
  • paired pulse
  • variance mean


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