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J Comp Neurol. 1992 Jul 1;321(1):65-82.

A quantitative light and electron microscopic analysis of taurine-like immunoreactivity in the dorsal horn of the rat spinal cord.

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Department of Anatomy College of Veterinary Medicine, Seoul National University, South Korea.


Taurine has been proposed as an inhibitory neurotransmitter or neuromodulator in the vertebrate central nervous system. Within the spinal cord, taurine has been shown to have a direct inhibitory effect on spinal neurons and to have a selective antinociceptive effect on chemically induced nociception. Although sufficient data exists to suggest that taurine plays a neurotransmitter or neuromodulatory role in the spinal cord, it is not known whether this amino acid is present in axon terminals nor if this amino acid has a unique pattern of distribution within spinal tissue. To address these questions a monoclonal antibody against taurine was employed to localize taurine-like immunoreactivity in the dorsal horn of the rat spinal cord by using both light and electron microscopic techniques. Taurine-like immunoreactivity was most dense and most prominent in laminae I and II of the dorsal horn. A moderate amount of immunoreactivity was also present in laminae VIII and IX and X while the remaining laminae were only lightly stained. In laminae I and II taurine-like immunostaining was evident within neuronal cell bodies, dendrites, myelinated and unmyelinated axons, axon terminals, and astrocytes and their processes. Cell counts of these two laminae indicated that approximately 30% of neuronal perikarya at the C2 level, 52% of neuronal perikarya at the T6 level, and 18% of neuronal perikarya at the L2 level of the cord exhibited taurine-like immunoreactivity. With preembedding diaminobenzidine staining, approximately 20% of the axons examined in laminae I and II were found to be immunoreactive for taurine. Using postembedding immunogold staining in combination with quantitative procedures, the highest densities of gold particles were found in axon terminals containing pleomorphic vesicles and forming symmetrical synapses (36.8 particles/micron2), in a subpopulation of myelinated axons (34.2 particles/micron2), in a subpopulation of neuronal dendrites (32.6 particles/micron2), and in capillary endothelial cells (39.8 particles/micron2). Moderate labeling occurred in astrocytes (20.9 particles/micron2) and neuronal perikarya (18.7 particles/micron2). The localization of taurine to presumptive inhibitory axon terminals provides anatomical support for the hypothesis that taurine may serve an inhibitory neurotransmitter role in the superficial dorsal horn of the spinal cord. On the other hand, its localization to astrocytes and endothelial cells within both the dorsal ventral horns implies that it serves other nonneuronal functions as well.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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