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Neurotransmission during development regulates synaptic maturation in neural circuits, but the contribution of different neurotransmitter systems is unclear. We investigated the role of GABAA receptor-mediated Cl- conductances in the development of synaptic responses in the Xenopus visual system. Intracellular Cl- concentration ([Cl-]i) was found to be high in immature tectal neurons and then falls over a period of several weeks. GABAergic synapses are present at early stages of tectal development and, when activated by optic nerve stimulation or visual stimuli, induce sustained depolarizing Cl- conductances that facilitate retinotectal transmission by NMDA receptors. To test whether depolarizing GABAergic inputs cooperate with NMDA receptors during activity-dependent maturation of glutamatergic synapses, we prematurely reduced [Cl-]i in tectal neurons in vivo by expressing the Cl- transporter KCC2. This blocked the normal developmental increase in AMPA receptor-mediated retinotectal transmission and increased GABAergic synaptic input to tectal neurons. Therefore, depolarizing GABAergic transmission plays a pivotal role in the maturation of excitatory transmission and controls the balance of excitation and inhibition in the developing retinotectal circuit.

Original publication




Journal article


J Neurosci

Publication Date





5117 - 5130


Animals, Cell Membrane, Chloride Channels, Electric Conductivity, Excitatory Postsynaptic Potentials, Larva, Membrane Potentials, Neural Inhibition, Synaptic Transmission, Visual Pathways, Xenopus laevis, gamma-Aminobutyric Acid