Homeostatic scaling of vesicular glutamate and GABA transporter expression in rat neocortical circuits

Stéphanie De Gois, Martin K.H. Schäfer, Norah Defamie, Chu Chen, Anthony Ricci, Eberhard Weihe, Hélène Varoqui, Jeffrey D. Erickson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

160 Scopus citations


Homeostatic control of pyramidal neuron firing rate involves a functional balance of feedforward excitation and feedback inhibition in neocortical circuits. Here, we reveal a dynamic scaling in vesicular excitatory (vesicular glutamate transporters VGLUT1 and VGLUT2) and inhibitory (vesicular inhibitory amino acid transporter VIAAT) transporter mRNA and synaptic protein expression in rat neocortical neuronal cultures, using a well established in vitro protocol to induce homeostatic plasticity. During the second and third week of synaptic differentiation, the predominant vesicular transporters expressed in neocortical neurons, VGLUT1 and VIAAT, are both dramatically upregulated. In mature cultures, VGLUT1 and VIAAT exhibit bidirectional and opposite regulation by prolonged activity changes. Endogenous coregulation during development and homeostatic scaling of the expression of the transporters in functionally differentiated cultures may serve to control vesicular glutamate and GABA filling and adjust functional presynaptic excitatory/inhibitory balance. Unexpectedly, hyperexcitation in differentiated cultures triggers a striking increase in VGLUT2 mRNA and synaptic protein, whereas decreased excitation reduces levels. VGLUT2 mRNA and protein are expressed in subsets of VGLUT1-encoded neocortical neurons that we identify in primary cultures and in neocortex in situ and in vivo. After prolonged hyperexcitation, downregulation of VGLUT1/synaptophysin intensity ratios at most synapses is observed, whereas a subset of VGLUT1-containing boutons selectively increase the expression of VGLUT2. Bidirectional and opposite regulation of VGLUT1 and VGLUT2 by activity may serve as positive or negative feedback regulators for cortical synaptic transmission. Intracortical VGLUT1/VGLUT2 coexpressing neurons have the capacity to independently modulate the level of expression of either transporter at discrete synapses and therefore may serve as a plastic interface between subcortical thalamic input (VGLUT2) and cortical output (VGLUT1) neurons.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)7121-7133
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of Neuroscience
Issue number31
StatePublished - Aug 3 2005
Externally publishedYes


  • Cortex
  • GABA
  • Glutamate
  • Homeostatic plasticity
  • Presynaptic
  • Regulation
  • Synaptic plasticity
  • Synaptic vesicle
  • Trafficking
  • VGLUT1
  • VGLUT2

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Neuroscience


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