The increased appreciation of electrical coupling between neurons has led to many studies examining the role of gap junctions in synaptic and network activity. Although the gap junctional blocker carbenoxolone (CBX) is effective in reducing electrical coupling, it may have other actions as well. To study the non-gap junctional effects of CBX on synaptic transmission, we recorded from mouse hippocampal neurons cultured on glial microislands. This recording configuration allowed us to stimulate and record excitatory postsynaptic currents (EPSCs) or inhibitory postsynaptic currents (IPSCs) in the same neuron or pairs of neurons. CBX irreversibly reduced evoked α-amino-3-hydroxy-5- methyl-4-isoxazoleproprionic acid (AMPA) receptor-mediated EPSCs. Consistent with a presynaptic site of action, CBX had no effect on glutamate-evoked whole cell currents and increased the paired-pulse ratio of AMPA and N-methyl-D-aspartate (NMDA) receptor-mediated EPSCs. CBX also reversibly reduced GABAA receptor-mediated IPSCs, increased the action potential width, and reduced the action potential firing rate. Our results indicate CBX broadly affects several neuronal membrane conductances independent of its effects on gap junctions. Thus effects of carbenoxolone on network activity cannot be interpreted as resulting from specific block of gap junctions.
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