Presynaptic muscarinic receptors reduce synaptic depression and facilitate its recovery at hippocampal GABAergic synapses.
We investigated the effects of muscarinic acetylcholine receptor (mAChR) activation on GABAergic synaptic transmission in rat hippocampal neurons. Current-clamp recordings revealed that methacholine produced membrane depolarization and action potential firing. Methacholine augmented the bicuculline-sensitive and GABA(A) -mediated frequency of spontaneous inhibitory postsynaptic currents (sIPSCs); the action of methacholine had a slow onset and longer duration. The increase in methacholine-evoked sIPSCs was completely inhibited by atropine and was insensitive to glutamatergic receptor blockers. Interestingly, methacholine action was not inhibited by intracellular perfusion with GDP-β-S, suggesting that muscarinic effects on membrane excitability and sIPSC frequency are mainly presynaptic. McN-A-343 and pirenzepine, selective agonist and antagonist of the m1 mAChR subtype, respectively, neither enhanced sIPSCs nor inhibited the methacholine effect. However, the m3-m5 mAChR antagonist 4-DAMP, and the m2-m4 mAChR antagonist himbacine inhibited the methacholine effect. U73122, an IP(3) production inhibitor, and 2APB, an IP(3) receptor blocker, drastically decreased the methacholine effect. Recording of miniature events revealed that besides the effect exerted by methacholine on membrane firing properties and sIPSC frequency, muscarinic receptors also enhanced the frequency of mIPSCs with no effect on their amplitude, possibly modulating the molecular machinery subserving vesicle docking and fusion and suggesting a tight colocalization at the active zone of the presynaptic terminals. These data strongly suggest that by activating presynaptic m2, m3, m4 and m5 mAChRs, methacholine can increase membrane excitability and enhance efficiency in the GABA release machinery, perhaps through a mechanism involving the release of calcium from the endoplasmic reticulum.