Dynamic regulation of excitatory and inhibitory synaptic transmission by growth hormone in the developing mouse brain

Guang-ying Li1,2,3, Qiu-zi Wu2,3,4, Tian-jia Song3, Xue-chu Zhen1, Xiang Yu2,3,4
1 Jiangsu Key Laboratory of Neuropsychiatric Diseases and College of Pharmaceutical Sciences, Soochow University, Suzhou 215123, China
2 Institute of Neuroscience, State Key Laboratory of Neuroscience, Center for Excellence in Brain Science and Intelligence Technology, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Shanghai 200031, China
3 School of Life Sciences, Peking-Tsinghua Center for Life Sciences, and Peking University McGovern Institute, Peking University, Beijing 100871, China
4 University of Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing 100049, China
Correspondence to: Guang-ying Li:, Xiang Yu:,
DOI: 10.1038/s41401-022-01027-w
Received: 21 July 2022
Accepted: 6 November 2022
Advance online: 7 December 2022


Normal sensory and cognitive function of the brain relies on its intricate and complex neural network. Synaptogenesis and synaptic plasticity are critical to neural circuit formation and maintenance, which are regulated by coordinated intracellular and extracellular signaling. Growth hormone (GH) is the most abundant anterior pituitary hormone. Its deficiencies could alter brain development and impair learning and memory, while GH replacement therapy in human patients and animal models has been shown to ameliorate cognitive deficits caused by GH deficiency. However, the underlying mechanism remains largely unknown. In this study, we investigated the neuromodulatory function of GH in young (pre-weaning) mice at two developmental time points and in two different brain regions. Neonatal mice were subcutaneously injected with recombinant human growth hormone (rhGH) on postnatal day (P) 14 or 21. Excitatory and inhibitory synaptic transmission was measured using whole-cell recordings in acute cortical slices 2 h after the injection. We showed that injection of rhGH (2 mg/kg) in P14 mice significantly increased the frequency of mEPSCs, but not that of mIPSCs, in both hippocampal CA1 pyramidal neurons and L2/3 pyramidal neurons of the barrel field of the primary somatosensory cortex (S1BF). Injection of rhGH (2 mg/kg) in P21 mice significantly increased the frequency of mEPSCs and mIPSCs in both brain regions. Perfusion of rhGH (1 μM) onto acute brain slices in P14 mice had similar effects. Consistent with the electrophysiological results, the dendritic spine density of CA1 pyramidal neurons and S1BF L2/3 pyramidal neurons increased following in vivo injection of rhGH. Furthermore, NMDA receptors and postsynaptic calcium-dependent signaling contributed to rhGH-dependent regulation of both excitatory and inhibitory synaptic transmission. Together, these results demonstrate that regulation of excitatory and inhibitory synaptic transmission by rhGH occurs in a developmentally dynamic manner, and have important implication for identifying GH treatment strategies without disturbing excitation/inhibition balance.
Keywords: growth hormone; synaptic transmission; synaptic plasticity; pyramidal neuron; dendritic spine; NMDA receptor

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