The effects of bath-applied glycine to substantia nigra zona compacta neurons of rat were investigated by intracellular recording techniques in vitro. Superfusion of glycine (1 mM) in the medium hyperpolarized 53% of the neurons recorded with KCl electrodes, whereas 32% of the cells were depolarized. The remaining 15% of neurons was hyperpolarized and then depolarized by the amino acid. In spite of these membrane changes, the action potential firing was depressed. Both hyperpolarization and depolarization correlated to an outward and an inward current, respectively, when recording in single-electrode voltage-clamp mode. In response to bath application of glycine, the nuerons showed a concentration-dependent conductance increase. Micromolar concentrations of glycine (100-300 μM) in the superfusion medium produced a membrane hyperpolarization (outward current) in most of the tested cells, whereas millimolar concentration of amino acid could cause depolarization (inward current) in the same neurons. When the recording electrodes contained K acetate, only hyperpolarizations (outward current) were produced. The potential and current changes and the increase in membrane conductance produced by glycine showed little desensitization when neurons were recorded with K acetate electrodes. The mean reversal potential for the membrane hyperpolarization was -80 mV with intracellular electrodes containing KCl and -84 mV with electrodes containing K acetate. The mean null potential for the depolarizing effect was -46 mV. The reversal potential for the glycinergic responses was shifted to less negative values upon lowering the extracellular concentration of chloride or increasing the extracellular concentration of potassium. Strychnine (1-10 μM) reversibly antagonized both the conductance increase and the membrane changes produced by glycine. Bath application of bicuculline (100 μM) and picrotoxin (200 μM) did not affect glycine responses, while depressing the actions of GABA and muscimol. It is concluded the glycine exerts an inhibition on substantia nigra zona compacta neurons by acting on strychnine-sensitive receptors. The membrane effects produced by glycine result from the activation of a chloride current. In addition, the simultaneous involvement of potassium ions may contribute to the overall effects of glycine.
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