Synchronous activity of locus coeruleus (LC) neurons during early postnatal development is regulated, in part, by electrotonic coupling. Connexin (Cx) proteins that make up gap junction channels are localized to both neurons and glia in the LC during this period. In adult rats, however, synchrony exists only under certain experimental conditions. The expression of Cx proteins was examined using western blot analysis at several developmental time points. Immunoblot analysis revealed little to no expression of Cx26 while Cx32, Cx43 and Cx36 were present at all time points examined. A progressive increase in Cx43 was identified from the first postnatal week through adulthood. Immunocytochemical detection of Cx36 and Cx43 in adult LC showed that Cx36 was associated with neuronal processes while Cx43 was localized to glia. In adult LC, in vitro intracellular recordings combined with neurobiotin injections confirmed the presence of gap junctional communication albeit to a lesser extent than in early postnatal periods. The degree to which synaptic inputs to LC neurons impact on Cx protein expression was also evaluated. Samples of the LC from rats that received an electrolytic lesion of the amygdala were processed for western blot analysis of Cx36 and Cx43. The predominantly neuronal Cx36 exhibited an increase in expression while the glial Cx43 was unchanged. The present results indicate that, despite subtype-specific changes during development, several Cx proteins are expressed in the adult LC. In addition, manipulating afferent input to the LC, in adult rats, results in increases in neuronal Cx protein levels but not in glial Cx levels suggesting that altering synaptic inputs to the LC may alter synchronous activity in noradrenergic neurons.
- Electrotonic coupling
- Gap junctions
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience
- Cell Biology