Posttraumatic GABA(A)-mediated [Ca2+]i increase is essential for the induction of brain-derived neurotrophic factor-dependent survival of mature central neurons.
ABSTRACT A shift of GABA(A)-mediated responses from hyperpolarizing to depolarizing after neuronal injury leads to GABA(A)-mediated increase in [Ca2+](i). In addition, central neurons become dependent on BDNF for survival. Whether these two mechanisms are causally interrelated is an open question. Here, we show in lesioned CA3 hippocampal neurons in vitro and in axotomized corticospinal neurons in vivo that posttraumatic downregulation of the neuron-specific K-Cl cotransporter KCC2 leads to intracellular chloride accumulation by the Na-K-2Cl cotransporter NKCC1, resulting in GABA-induced [Ca2+](i) transients. This mechanism is required by a population of neurons to survive in a BDNF-dependent manner after injury, because blocking GABA(A)-depolarization with the NKCC1 inhibitor bumetanide prevents the loss of neurons on BDNF withdrawal. The resurgence of KCC2 expression during recovery coincides with loss of BDNF dependency for survival. This is likely mediated through BDNF itself, because injured neurons reverse their response to this neurotrophin by switching the BDNF-induced downregulation of KCC2 to upregulation.