Preservation of KCC2 Expression in Axotomized Abducens Motoneurons and Its Enhancement by VEGF

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The potassium chloride cotransporter 2 (KCC2) is the main Cl extruder in neurons. Any alteration in KCC2 levels leads to changes in Cl homeostasis and, consequently, in the polarity and amplitude of inhibitory synaptic potentials mediated by GABA or glycine. Axotomy downregulates KCC2 in many different motoneurons and it is suspected that interruption of muscle-derived factors maintaining motoneuron KCC2 expression is in part responsible. In here, we demonstrate that KCC2 is expressed in all oculomotor nuclei of cat and rat, but while trochlear and oculomotor motoneurons downregulate KCC2 after axotomy, expression is unaltered in abducens motoneurons. Exogenous application of vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF), a neurotrophic factor expressed in muscle, upregulated KCC2 in axotomized abducens motoneurons above control levels. In parallel, a physiological study using cats chronically implanted with electrodes for recording abducens motoneurons in awake animals, demonstrated that inhibitory inputs related to off-fixations and off-directed saccades in VEGF-treated axotomized abducens motoneurons were significantly higher than in control, but eye-related excitatory signals in the on direction were unchanged. This is the first report of lack of KCC2 regulation in a motoneuron type after injury, proposing a role for VEGF in KCC2 regulation and demonstrating the link between KCC2 and synaptic inhibition in awake, behaving animals.



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