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J Comp Neurol. 1999 Mar 15;405(3):299-321.

Immunohistochemical localization of GABA(B) receptors in the rat central nervous system.

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Department of Physiology, Howard Hughes Medical Institute, University of California San Francisco, 94143, USA.


The recent cloning of two gamma-aminobutyric acid(B) (GABA(B)) receptor isoforms (GABA(B)R1a/b), which are probably splice variants of the same gene transcript, allowed us to develop an antiserum that recognized the receptors in fixed tissue and to map their distribution in the rat central nervous system (CNS). We also investigated whether GABA(B)R1 colocalizes with glutamic acid decarboxylase (GAD), a marker of GABAergic cell bodies and terminals. Although GABA(B)R1-like immunoreactivity (GABA(B)R1-LI) was distributed throughout the CNS, several distinct distribution patterns emerged: (1) all monoaminergic brainstem cell groups appeared to contain very high levels of GABA(B)R1, (2) a very high intensity of GABA(B)R1-LI was observed in the majority of the cholinergic regions in the CNS, with exception of motoneurons of the third through sixth cranial nerve nuclei, and (3) a low density of the receptor was observed in most of the nuclei that contain cell bodies of GABAergic projection neurons. The highest GABA(B)R1 labeling was observed in the thalamus, interpeduncular nucleus and medial habenula. Cell bodies were labeled throughout the neuroaxis. We also observed dense neuropil labeling in many regions, suggesting that this receptor is localized in dendrites and/or axon terminals. However, in immunofluorescent double-labeling experiments for GABA(B)R1 and GAD, we never observed GABA(B)R1-LI in GAD-positive axon terminals; this result suggests that the GABA(B)R1 may not function as an autoreceptor. Double labeling was observed in the cell bodies of Purkinje neurons and in some interneurons. In general, the immunohistochemical localization of the GABA(B)R1 correlates well with physiologic and autoradiographic data on the distribution of GABA(B) receptors, but some critical differences were noted. Thus, it is likely that additional GABA(B) receptor subtypes remain to be identified.

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