Background: Propofol facilitates γ-aminobutyric acid–mediated inhibitory synaptic transmission. In the cerebral cortex, γ-aminobutyric acidergic interneurons target both excitatory pyramidal cells (Pyr) and fast-spiking (FS) and non-FS interneurons. Therefore, the propofol-induced facilitation of inhibitory transmission results in a change in the balance of excitatory and inhibitory inputs to Pyr. However, it is still unknown how propofol modulates γ-aminobutyric acidergic synaptic transmission in each combination of Pyr and interneurons.
Methods: The authors examined whether propofol differentially regulates inhibitory postsynaptic currents (IPSCs) depending on the presynaptic and postsynaptic cell subtypes using multiple whole cell patch clamp recording from γ-aminobutyric acidergic interneurons and Pyr in rat insular cortex.
Results: Propofol (10 μM) consistently prolonged decay kinetics of unitary IPSCs (uIPSCs) in all types of inhibitory connections without changing paired-pulse ratio of the second to first uIPSC amplitude or failure rate. The FS→Pyr connections exhibited greater enhancement of uIPSC charge transfer (2.2 ± 0.5 pC, n = 36) compared with that of FS→FS/non-FS connections (0.9 ± 0.2 pC, n = 37), whereas the enhancement of charge transfer in non-FS→Pyr (0.3 ± 0.1 pC, n = 15) and non-FS→FS/non-FS connections (0.2 ± 0.1 pC, n = 36) was smaller to those in FS→Pyr/FS/non-FS. Electrical synapses between FS pairs were not affected by propofol.
Conclusions: The principal inhibitory connections (FS→Pyr) are the most sensitive to propofol-induced facilitation of uIPSCs, which is likely mediated by postsynaptic mechanisms. This preferential uIPSC enhancement in FS→Pyr connections may result in suppressed neural activities of projection neurons, which in turn reduces excitatory outputs from cortical local circuits.