Ethanol potentiates glycinergic synaptic transmission to hypoglossal motoneurons (HMs). This effect on glycinergic transmission changes with postnatal development in that juvenile HMs (P9-13) are more sensitive to ethanol than neonate HMs (P1-3). We have now extended our previous study to investigate ethanol modulation of synaptic GABAA receptors (GABA ARs), because both GABA and glycine mediate inhibitory synaptic transmission to brain stem motoneurons. We tested the effects of ethanol on GABAergic and glycinergic miniature inhibitory postsynaptic currents (mIPSCs) recorded from neonate and juvenile rat HMs in an in vitro slice preparation. Bath application of 30 mM ethanol had no significant effect on the GABAergic mIPSC amplitude or frequency recorded at either age. At 100 mM, ethanol significantly decreased the GABAergic mIPSC amplitude recorded from neonate (6 ± 3%, P < 0.05) and juvenile (16 ± 3%, P < 0.01) HMs. The same concentration of ethanol increased the GABAergic mIPSC frequency recorded from neonate (64 ± 17%, P < 0.05) and juvenile (40 ± 15%, n.s.) HMs. In contrast, 100 mM ethanol robustly potentiated glycinergic mIPSC amplitude in neonate (31 ± 3%, P < 0.0001) and juvenile (41 ± 7%, P < 0.001) HMs. These results suggest that glycine receptors are more sensitive to modulation by ethanol than GABAA receptors and that 100 mM ethanol has the opposite effect on GABAAR-mediated currents in juvenile HMs, that is, inhibition rather than enhancement. Further, comparing ethanol's effects on GABAergic mIPSC amplitude and frequency, ethanol modulates GABAergic synaptic transmission to HMs differentially. Presynaptically, ethanol enhances mIPSC frequency while postsynaptically it decreases mIPSC amplitude.
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