Endogenous opioids generate analgesic signals in the periaqueductal gray (PAG). However, because cell types in the PAG are difficult to identify, its neuronal mechanism has remained poorly understood. To address this issue, we characterized PAG neurons by their electrical properties using differentially labeled GABAergic and output neurons in the PAG. We found that GABAergic neurons were mostly fast-spiking cells and could be further divided into two distinct classes: with or without low-threshold spikes (LTS) driven by T-type channels. In contrast, the PAG output neurons lacked LTS and showed heterogeneous firing patterns. To reveal the function of the LTS, we examined the mutant mice lacking the α1G T-type channels (α1G-/-). The mutant mice lacked LTS in the fast-spiking GABAergic neurons of the PAG and unexpectedly showed impaired opioid-dependent analgesia; a similar phenotype was reproduced in PAG-specific α1G-knockdown mice. Electrophysiological analyses revealed functional expression of μ-opioid receptors in the low threshold-spiking GABAergic neurons. These neurons in the mutant lacking LTS showed markedly enhanced discharge activities, which led to an augmented inhibition of output neurons. Furthermore, the impaired analgesia observed in α1G-/- mice was reversed by blocking local GABAA receptors. These results indicate that α1G T-type channels are critical for the opioidergic descending analgesia system in the PAG.
|Number of pages||6|
|Journal||Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America|
|Publication status||Published - 2010 Aug 17|
- Calcium-activated potassium channel
- Opioid-descending analgesia
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