Dendrites of cortical pyramidal neurons contain intermingled excitatory and inhibitory synapses. We studied the local mechanisms that regulate the formation and distribution of synapses. We found that local γ-aminobutyric acid (GABA) release on dendrites of mouse cortical layer 2/3 pyramidal neurons could induce gephyrin puncta and dendritic spine formation via GABA type A receptor activation and voltage-gated calcium channels during early postnatal development. Furthermore, the newly formed inhibitory and excitatory synaptic structures rapidly gained functions. Bidirectional manipulation of GABA release from somatostatin-positive interneurons increased and decreased the number of gephyrin puncta and dendritic spines, respectively. These results highlight a noncanonical function of GABA as a local synaptogenic element shaping the early establishment of neuronal circuitry in mouse cortex.
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