The γ-aminobutyric acid and proton signaling systems in the zebrafish brain: Characterization and effect of stress

  • Datum:
  • Plats: Auditorium Minus, Museum Gustavianum, Akademigatan 3, Uppsala
  • Doktorand: Cocco, Arianna
  • Om avhandlingen
  • Arrangör: Fysiologi
  • Kontaktperson: Cocco, Arianna
  • Disputation


The central nervous system of vertebrates is continuously processing sensory information relayed from the periphery, integrating it and producing outputs transmitted to efferents. In the brain, neurons employ an array of messenger molecules to filter afferent information and finely regulate synaptic transmission. The γ-aminobutyric acid (GABA) is the major inhibitory neurotransmitter in the adult vertebrate central nervous system, synthesized from α, L-glutamate by the glutamate decarboxylases (GADs). GABA promotes fast hyperpolarization of target cells mediated by the ionotropic, chloride-conducting type A GABA (GABAA) receptors. Those channels are homo- or heteropentamers and, in the zebrafish, at least twenty-three genes encode for putative GABAA receptor subunits.

The present PhD thesis presents the expression levels of the almost complete panel of the GABA signaling machinery in the adult zebrafish brain and retinas. The results point toward GABA signaling modalities in zebrafish strikingly similar to those observed in mammals. The most common GABAA receptor subunit combinations in the whole brain were proposed to be α1β2γ2 and α1β2δ, and region-specific GABAA channels were also inferred. Those included telencephalic α2bβ3γ2, α2bβ3δ, α5β2γ2, α5β3γ2 and cerebellar α4β2γ2 and α4β2δ. A tissue specific expression was documented for the paralogues α6a and α6b; the former was abundantly transcribed in the retinas, the latter in the cerebellum. Proposed retinal GABAA receptors were α1βxγ2, α1βxδ, α6aβxγ2 and α6aβxδ, with either β2 or β3.

Focus was also placed on functional aspects of the GABA signaling system in the adult zebrafish brain, and specifically on the effects of stress on GABAA receptor subunits expression. Treated animals experienced social isolation and repeated confinement, and depicted increased mRNA levels of several GABAA receptor monomers. It was deduced that a higher number of extrasynaptic, tonic-current-mediating GABAA channels was synthesized in the brain following stress. As synaptic transmission promotes extracellular acidification, interest was also placed on the acid-sensing ion channel (ASIC) subunits. The overall results presented in this PhD thesis point toward GABA and proton signaling systems in the zebrafish brain that have many common points with those of mammals. Thus, fundamental signaling pathways appear to be conserved across vertebrates.