The Journal Of Neuroscience : The Official Journal Of The Society For Neuroscience
The basal forebrain (BF) receives afferents from brainstem ascending pathways, which has been implicated first by Moruzzi and Magoun (1949) to induce forebrain activation and cortical arousal/waking behavior; however, it is very little known about how brainstem inhibitory inputs affect cholinergic functions. In the current study, glycine, a major inhibitory neurotransmitter of brainstem neurons, and gliotransmitter of local glial cells, was tested for potential interaction with BF cholinergic (BFC) neurons in male mice. In the BF, glycine receptor subunit-immunoreactive (IR) sites were localized in choline acetyltransferase (ChAT)-IR neurons. The effect of glycine on BFC neurons was demonstrated by bicuculline-resistant, strychnine-sensitive spontaneous IPSCs (sIPSCs; 0.81 0.25 10(-1) Hz) recorded in whole-cell conditions. Potential neuronal as well as glial sources of glycine were indicated in the extracellular space of cholinergic neurons by glycine transporter type 1 (GLYT1)- and GLYT2-IR processes found in apposition to ChAT-IR cells. Ultrastructural analyses identified synapses of GLYT2-positive axon terminals on ChAT-IR neurons, as well as GLYT1-positive astroglial processes, which were localized in the vicinity of synapses of ChAT-IR neurons. The brainstem raphe magnus was determined to be a major source of glycinergic axons traced retrogradely from the BF. Our results indicate a direct effect of glycine on BFC neurons. Furthermore, the presence of high levels of plasma membrane glycine transporters in the vicinity of cholinergic neurons suggests a tight control of extracellular glycine in the BF.SIGNIFICANCE STATEMENT Basal forebrain cholinergic (BFC) neurons receive various activating inputs from specific brainstem areas and channel this information to the cortex via multiple projections. So far, very little is known about inhibitory brainstem afferents to the BF. The current study established glycine as a major regulator of BFC neurons by (1) identifying glycinergic neurons in the brainstem projecting to the BF, (2) showing glycine receptor subunit-immunoreactive (IR) sites in choline acetyltransferase (ChAT)-IR neurons, (3) demonstrating glycine transporter type 2 (GLYT2)-positive axon terminals synapsing on ChAT-IR neurons, and (4) localizing GLYT1-positive astroglial processes in the vicinity of synapses of ChAT-IR neurons. The effect of glycine on BFC neurons was demonstrated by bicuculline-resistant, strychnine-sensitive spontaneous IPSCs recorded in whole-cell conditions.