GABA is a well-known neurotransmitter that can be synthesized in the central nervous system (CNS) and, interestingly, also in pancreatic islets. Once released, GABA activates GABA-A channels tonically or transiently resulting in different physiological functions. The pancreatic islets are important micro-organs composed of mainly α, β and δ cells secreting the metabolic hormones, namely insulin, glucagon and somatosatin, respectively. When insulin is secreted from pancreatic β cells, it can enter the blood and travel to the target tissues including the brain where the insulin receptor is prominently expressed such as in the hippocampus. It has been suggested that insulin regulates hippocampal function and, thereby, possibly modulates cognition. However, how this comes about is not understood. On the other hand, GABA secreted from the pancreatic β cells can regulate the islet cells via the para or autocrine loop. Nevertheless, in order to elucidate the details of GABA effects on cellular function, more insight into the pharmacological characteristics of GABA-A receptors, the physiological concentration of GABA and activation types of the GABA-receptors are required. We, therefore, used the whole-cell and single-channel patch-clamp technique to record from cells in the hippocampal slice and pancreatic islets for studying the function of GABA-A receptors and how they are modified by hormones, GABA or drugs. RT-qPCR was utilized to profile the expression of GABA-A receptors in the intact tissues. We also initiated the patch-clamp combined single-cell RT-PCR in the intact rat and human islets to investigate the cell-specific function of GABA-A receptors.
We have shown in acute rat hippocampal slices that 1 nM insulin “turns on” extrasynaptic GABA-A receptors in CA1 pyramidal neurons resulting in decreased frequency of action potential firing. The single-channel current amplitude is related to the GABA concentration resulting in a single-channel GABA affinity in the pM range. The benzodiazepines, flumazenil and zolpidem, are inverse agonists. The results demonstrated an unexpected hormonal control of the inhibitory channel subtype expressed and excitability of hippocampal neurons.
In the intact rat islets, the GABA-evoked tonic currents were present in the α cells and may contribute to keeping the resting membrane potential of α cells population at hyperpolarized membrane potential and, thereby, making it more difficult to depolarize the cells. In the human, the GABA signaling system was compromised in islets from type 2 diabetic individuals, where the expression of genes encoding the α1, α2, β2 and β3 GABA-A receptor subunits were down-regulated. GABA originating within the islets evoked tonic currents in the α, β and δ cells. However, transient current was observed only in δ cells, which implies a rapid regulation of somatostatin secretion by GABA. The effects of SR95531 on hormone release revealed that activation of GABA-A receptors decreased both insulin and glucagon secretion. The data is important for understanding the mechanism underlying GABA regulation of hormones secretion in human islets.
Uppsala: Acta Universitatis Upsaliensis, 2013. , 40 p.
2013-12-12, lecture hall A1:111a, BMC, Husargatan 3, Uppsala, 13:15 (English)