Despite the well-established contribution of neurohumoral activation to morbidity and mortality in heart failure (HF) patients, relatively little is known about the underlying central nervous system mechanisms. In this study, we aimed to determine whether changes in GABAergic inhibitory and glutamatergic excitatory synaptic function contribute to altered hypothalamic magnocellular neurosecretory cell (MNC) activity in HF rats. Patchclamp recordings were obtained from MNCs in brain slices from sham and HF rats. Glutamate excitatory (EPSCs) and GABAergic inhibitory postsynaptic currents (IPSCs) were simultaneously recorded, and changes in their strengths, as well as their interactions, were evaluated. We found a diminished GABAergic synaptic strength in MNCs of HF rats, reflected as faster decaying IPSCs and diminished mean IPSC charge transfer. Opposite changes were observed in glutamate EPSC synaptic strength, resulting in a shift in the GABA-glutamate balance toward a relatively stronger glutamate influence in HF rats. The prolongation of glutamate EPSCs during HF was mediated, at least in part, by an enhanced contribution of AMPA receptor desensitization to the EPSC decay time course. EPSC prolongation, and consequently increased unitary strength, resulted in a stronger AMPA receptor-mediated excitatory drive to firing discharge in MNCs of HF rats. Blockade of GABA A synaptic activity diminished the EPSC waveform variability observed among events in sham rats, an effect that was blunted in HF rats. Together, our results suggest that opposing changes in postsynaptic properties of GABAergic and glutamatergic synaptic function contribute to enhanced magnocellular neurosecretory activity in HF rats.
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