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BackgroundSensorimotor gating is a fundamental pre-attentive process that is defined as the inhibition of a motor response by a sensory event. Sensorimotor gating, commonly measured using the prepulse inhibition (PPI) of the auditory startle reflex task, is impaired in patients suffering from various neurological and psychiatric disorders. PPI deficits are a hallmark of schizophrenia, and they are often associated with attention and other cognitive impairments. Although the reversal of PPI deficits in animal models is widely used in pre-clinical research for antipsychotic drug screening, the neurotransmitter systems and synaptic mechanisms underlying PPI are still not resolved, even under physiological conditions. Recent evidence ruled out the longstanding hypothesis that PPI is mediated by midbrain cholinergic inputs to the caudal pontine reticular nucleus (PnC). Instead, glutamatergic, glycinergic, and GABAergic inhibitory mechanisms are now suggested to be crucial for PPI, at the PnC level. Since amygdalar dysfunctions alter PPI and are common to pathologies displaying sensorimotor gating deficits, the present study was designed to test that direct projections to the PnC originating from the amygdala contribute to PPI.ResultsUsing wild type and transgenic mice expressing eGFP under the control of the glycine transporter type 2 promoter (GlyT2-eGFP mice), we first employed tract-tracing, morphological reconstructions, and immunohistochemical analyses to demonstrate that the central nucleus of the amygdala (CeA) sends glutamatergic inputs lateroventrally to PnC neurons, including GlyT2(+) cells. Then, we showed the contribution of the CeA-PnC excitatory synapses to PPI in vivo by demonstrating that optogenetic inhibition of this connection decreases PPI, and optogenetic activation induces partial PPI. Finally, in GlyT2-Cre mice, whole-cell recordings of GlyT2(+) PnC neurons in vitro paired with optogenetic stimulation of CeA fibers, as well as photo-inhibition of GlyT2(+) PnC neurons in vivo, allowed us to implicate GlyT2(+) neurons in the PPI pathway.ConclusionsOur results uncover a feedforward inhibitory mechanism within the brainstem startle circuit by which amygdalar glutamatergic inputs and GlyT2(+) PnC neurons contribute to PPI. We are providing new insights to the clinically relevant theoretical construct of PPI, which is disrupted in various neuropsychiatric and neurological diseases.
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UTEP startup funds; UMass startup funds; Drs. Ellzey Scholars Graduate Research Fellowship; Dodson Grant; NIHUnited States Department of Health & Human ServicesNational Institutes of Health (NIH) - USA [SC1GM118242, 8K00MH125434-03]
Cano, Jose Carlos; Huang, Wanyun; and Fenelon, Karine, "The Amygdala Modulates Prepulse Inhibition of the Auditory Startle Reflex Through Excitatory Inputs to the Caudal Pontine Reticular Nucleus" (2021). BMC Biology. 659.