- The major outward chloride transporter in neurons is the potassium chloride co-transporter 2 (KCC2), critical for maintaining an inhibitory reversal potential for GABA(A) receptor channels. In a recent study, we showed that Zn(2+) regulates GABA(A) reversal potentials in the hippocampus by enhancing the activity of KCC2 through an increase in its surface expression. Zn(2+) initiates this process by activating the Gq-coupled metabotropic Zn(2+) receptor/G protein-linked receptor 39 (mZnR/GPR39). Here, we first demonstrated that mZnR/GPR39 is functional in cortical neurons in culture, and then tested the hypothesis that the increase in KCC2 activity is mediated through a soluble N-ethylmaleimide-sensitive factor attachment protein receptor (SNARE)-dependent process. We established the presence of functional mZnR in rat cultured cortical neurons by loading cells with a Ca(2+) indicator and exposing cells to Zn(2+), which triggered consistent Ca(2+) responses that were blocked by the Gq antagonist YM-254890, but not by the metabotropic glutamate receptor antagonist (RS)-α-methyl-4-carboxyphenylglycine (MCPG). Importantly, Zn(2+) treatment under these conditions did not increase the intracellular concentrations of Zn(2+) itself. We then measured KCC2 activity by monitoring both the rate and relative amount of furosemide-sensitive NH(4)(+) influx through the co-transporter using an intracellular pH-sensitive fluorescent indicator. We observed that Zn(2+) pretreatment induced a Ca(2+)-dependent increase in KCC2 activity. The effects of Zn(2+) on KCC2 activity were also observed in wild-type mouse cortical neurons in culture, but not in neurons obtained from mZnR/GPR39(-/-) mice, suggesting that Zn(2+) acts through mZnR/GPR39 activation to upregulate KCC2 activity. We next transfected rat cortical neurons with a plasmid encoding botulinum toxin C1 (Botox C1), which cleaves the SNARE proteins syntaxin 1 and synaptosomal-associated protein 25 (SNAP-25). Basal KCC2 activity was similar in both transfected and non-transfected neurons. Non-transfected cells, or cells transfected with marker vector alone, showed a Zn(2+)-dependent increase in KCC2 activity. In contrast, KCC2 activity in neurons expressing Botox C1 was unchanged by Zn(2+). These results suggest that SNARE proteins are necessary for the increased activity of KCC2 after Zn(2+) stimulation of mZnR/GPR39.