Developmental and age-dependent plasticity of GABAA receptors in the mouse colon: Implications in colonic motility and inflammation

Mohsen Seifi, Jerome D. Swinny

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Lifelong functional plasticity of the gastrointestinal (GI) tract is essential for health, yet the underlying molecular mechanisms are poorly understood. The enteric nervous system (ENS) regulates all aspects of the gut function, via a range of neurotransmitter pathways, one of which is the GABA-GABAA receptor (GABAAR) system. We have previously shown that GABAA receptor subunits are differentially expressed within the ENS and are involved in regulating various GI functions. We have also shown that these receptors are involved in mediating stress-induced colonic inflammation. However, the expression and function of intestinal GABAARs, at different ages, is largely unexplored and was the focus of this study. Here we show that the impact of GABAAR activation on colonic contractility changes from early postnatal period through to late adulthood, in an age-dependant manner. We also show that the highest levels of expression for all GABAAR subunits is evident at postnatal day (P) 10 apart from the α3 subunit which increased with age. This increase in the α3 subunit expression in late adulthood (18 months old) is accompanied by an increase in the expression of inflammatory markers within the mouse colon. Finally, we demonstrate that the deletion of the α3 subunit prevents the increase in the expression of colonic inflammatory markers associated with healthy ageing. Collectively, the data provide the first demonstration of the molecular and functional plasticity of the GI GABAAR system over the course of a lifetime, and its possible role in mediating the age-induced colonic inflammation associated with healthy ageing.
Original languageEnglish
JournalAutonomic Neuroscience Basic and Clinical
Early online date15 Aug 2019
Publication statusEarly online - 15 Aug 2019


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