During development, newly-differentiated neurons undergo several morphological and physiological changes to become functional, mature neurons. Physiologic maturation of neuronal cells derived from isolated stem or progenitor cells may provide insight into maturation in vivo but is not well studied. As a step towards understanding how neuronal maturation is regulated, we studied the developmental switch of response to the neurotransmitter GABA, from excitatory depolarization to inhibitory hyperpolarization. We compared acutely isolated retinal ganglion cells (RGCs) at various developmental stages and RGCs differentiated in vitro from embryonic retinal progenitors for the effects of aging and, independently, of retinal environment age on their GABAA receptor (GABAAR) responses, elicited by muscimol. We found that neurons generated in vitro from progenitors exhibited depolarizing, immature GABA responses, like those of early postnatal RGCs. As progenitor-derived neurons aged from 1 to 3 weeks, their GABA responses matured. Interestingly, signals secreted by the early postnatal retina suppressed acquisition of mature GABA responses. This suppression was not associated with changes in expression of GABAAR or of the chloride co-transporter KCC2, but rather with inhibition of KCC2 dimerization in differentiating neurons. Taken together, these data indicate GABA response maturation depends on release of inhibition by developmentally regulated diffusible signals from the retina.
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