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J Neurosci Methods. 2009 Jun 30;181(1):58-66. doi: 10.1016/j.jneumeth.2009.04.016. Epub 2009 May 3.

The optimization of TaqMan real-time RT-PCR assay for transcriptional profiling of GABA-A receptor subunit plasticity.

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Department of Neuroscience and Experimental Therapeutics, College of Medicine, Texas A&M System Health Science Center, College Station, TX 77843-1114, USA.


The GABA-A receptor plays a critical role in inhibitory neurotransmission in the brain. Quantitation of GABA-A receptor subunits in various brain regions is essential to understand their role in plasticity and brain disorders. However, conventional RNA assays are tedious and less sensitive for use in studies of subunit plasticity. Here we describe optimization of a sensitive assay of GABA-A receptor subunit gene expression by TaqMan real-time PCR. For each subunit gene, a set of primers and TaqMan fluorogenic probe were designed to specifically amplify the target template. The TaqMan methodology was optimized for quantification of mouse GABA-A receptor subunits (alpha(1-6), beta(1-3), gamma(2), and delta) and GAPDH. The TaqMan reaction detected very low levels of gene expression ( approximately 100 template copies of cDNA). A standard curve for GAPDH and one of the target genes, constructed using the cDNA, revealed slopes around -3.4 (r(2)=0.990), reflecting similar optimum PCR efficiencies. The methodology was utilized for quantification of the GABA-A receptor alpha(4)-subunit, which is known to upregulate following withdrawal from chronic progesterone or neurosteroids. Our results show that the alpha(4)-subunit expression increased threefold in the hippocampus following neurosteroid withdrawal in mice. The TaqMan PCR assay allows sensitive, high-throughput transcriptional profiling of complete GABA-A receptor subunit family, and thus provides specific tool for studies of GABA-A receptor subunit plasticity in neurological and psychiatric animal models.

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