Auxiliary α2δ1 and α2δ3 Subunits of Calcium Channels Drive Excitatory and Inhibitory Neuronal Network Development

Arthur Bikbaev, Anna Ciuraszkiewicz-Wojciech, Jennifer Heck, Oliver Klatt, Romy Freund, Jessica Mitlöhner, Sara Enrile Lacalle, Miao Sun, Daniele Repetto, Renato Frischknecht, Cornelia Ablinger, Astrid Rohlmann, Markus Missler, Gerald J Obermair, Valentina Di Biase, Martin Heine

Research output: Journal article (peer-reviewed)Journal article

20 Citations (Scopus)


VGCCs are multisubunit complexes that play a crucial role in neuronal signaling. Auxiliary α2δ subunits of VGCCs modulate trafficking and biophysical properties of the pore-forming α1 subunit and trigger excitatory synaptogenesis. Alterations in the expression level of α2δ subunits were implicated in several syndromes and diseases, including chronic neuropathic pain, autism, and epilepsy. However, the contribution of distinct α2δ subunits to excitatory/inhibitory imbalance and aberrant network connectivity characteristic for these pathologic conditions remains unclear. Here, we show that α2δ1 overexpression enhances spontaneous neuronal network activity in developing and mature cultures of hippocampal neurons. In contrast, overexpression, but not downregulation, of α2δ3 enhances neuronal firing in immature cultures, whereas later in development it suppresses neuronal activity. We found that α2δ1 overexpression increases excitatory synaptic density and selectively enhances presynaptic glutamate release, which is impaired on α2δ1 knockdown. Overexpression of α2δ3 increases the excitatory synaptic density as well but also facilitates spontaneous GABA release and triggers an increase in the density of inhibitory synapses, which is accompanied by enhanced axonaloutgrowth in immature interneurons. Together, our findings demonstrate that α2δ1 and α2δ3 subunits play distinct but complementary roles in driving formation of structural and functional network connectivity during early development. An alteration in α2δ surface expression during critical developmental windows can therefore play a causal role and have a profound impact on the excitatory-to-inhibitory balance and network connectivity.SIGNIFICANCE STATEMENT The computational capacity of neuronal networks is determined by their connectivity. Chemical synapses are the main interface for transfer of information between individual neurons. The initial formation of network connectivity requires spontaneous electrical activity and the calcium channel-mediated signaling. We found that, in early development, auxiliary α2δ3 subunits of calcium channels foster presynaptic release of GABA, trigger formation of inhibitory synapses, and promote axonal outgrowth in inhibitory interneurons. In contrast, later in development, α2δ1 subunits promote the glutamatergic neurotransmission and synaptogenesis, as well as strongly enhance neuronal network activity. We propose that formation of connectivity in neuronal networks is associated with a concerted interplay of α2δ1 and α2δ3 subunits of calcium channels.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)4824-4841
Number of pages18
JournalJournal of Neuroscience
Issue number25
Publication statusPublished - 17 Jun 2020


  • Animals
  • Calcium Channels/metabolism
  • Calcium Signaling/physiology
  • HEK293 Cells
  • Hippocampus/physiology
  • Humans
  • Mice
  • Nerve Net/physiology
  • Neurogenesis/physiology
  • Neurons/physiology
  • Rats
  • Synaptic Transmission/physiology
  • Synaptogenesis
  • Excitation to inhibition balance
  • Network connectivity
  • Alpha2delta subunits
  • VGCCs

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Neuroscience


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