Editors' ChoiceNeuroscience

Switching Neurotransmitter Effects in Development

Science's STKE  12 Dec 2006:
Vol. 2006, Issue 365, pp. tw420
DOI: 10.1126/stke.3652006tw420

The neurotransmitter GABA (γ-aminobutyric acid) generally exerts inhibitory effects on neuronal activity during adulthood, but during early development when circuits are being built, GABA has excitatory effects. Studying chick neurons, Liu et al. show that the change involves a switch in the direction of the chloride gradient across the cell membrane, which is in turn triggered by changes in nicotinic signaling activity. The change in signaling modality may reflect how neuronal activity and cellular development interact to fine-tune the structure of the brain.

Z. Liu, R. A. Neff, D. K. Berg, Sequential interplay of nicotinic and GABAergic signaling guides neuronal development. Science 314, 1610-1613 (2006). [Abstract] [Full Text]