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Neuroscience. 2008 Jun 2;153(4):1103-14. doi: 10.1016/j.neuroscience.2008.03.026. Epub 2008 Mar 22.

Identification of glutamic acid decarboxylase gene and distribution of GABAergic nervous system in the planarian Dugesia japonica.

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  • 1Department of Neurobiology, and 21st Century Center of Excellence Program, Kyoto Pharmaceutical University, Misasagi, Yamashina-ku, Kyoto 607-8414, Japan.


The planarian Dugesia japonica has a relatively well-organized CNS that includes the brain and the ventral nerve cords, and also has high regenerative capacity derived from pluripotent stem cells present in the mesenchymal space throughout the body. Glutamic acid decarboxylase (GAD) is the enzyme that converts glutamic acid into GABA, a major inhibitory neurotransmitter. In this study, we first identified a full-length GAD gene (DjGAD, D. japonica glutamic acid decarboxylase) in the planarian D. japonica. Whole-mount in situ hybridization revealed that a few cells expressed DjGAD mRNA, and these cells were located in both the head and pharynx regions. In order to examine the distribution pattern of DjGAD protein, we generated a mouse monoclonal anti-DjGAD antibody. The distribution pattern of DjGAD protein was very similar to that of DjGAD mRNA. A neural network of DjGAD-immunopositive cells was also clearly observed. In addition, we examined the immunofluorescence during the process of regeneration of the head from the tail piece. At day 3 of regeneration, we could detect newly formed DjGAD-immunopositive neurons in the anterior region. During day 5-7 of regeneration, reconstruction of the neural network of DjGAD-immunopositive cells occurred. DjGAD-immunoreactivity was lost in DjGAD-knockdown planarians obtained by RNA interference. The amount of GABA was significantly decreased in DjGAD-knockdown planarians, which lost negative phototaxis but not locomotion activity. These results suggest that DjGAD is clearly required for GABA biosynthesis and photosensitivity in planarians, and expression of DjGAD as detected by anti-DjGAD antibody is a useful marker for GABAergic neurons.

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