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Can J Physiol Pharmacol. 1991 Jul;69(7):1049-56.

GABA: history and perspectives.

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Fakultät für Biologie, Universität Konstanz, Germany.


In 1957, factor I, a brain agent I had discovered earlier, was chemically identified as GABA in a collaboration between myself and Alva Bazemore at the Montréal Neurological Institute (MNI) in the Neurochemistry Laboratory then headed by K. A. C. Elliott. A personally biased excursion into the history of neurobiology illuminates the development of methods and concepts that led to this event, and recounts the early days at the MNI, when Hugh McLennan and I applied factor I to the exposed surface of the spinal cord and to sympathetic ganglia of cats and rabbits. It also tells of earlier studies at Graz, Naples, and elsewhere that prompted the experiments at the California Institute of Technology in which factor I was discovered as the agent in nerve extracts causing inhibition of isolated crayfish stretch receptor neurons, and in which it was found that this inhibition could be prevented by picrotoxin. There was justified doubt that GABA is indeed the transmitter substance of inhibitory neurones. Later studies, however, resolved the controversy. The functional role of GABA in brain and spinal cord and its mechanism of action are still far from being fully understood. Special problems are the extent and significance of spontaneous quantal and nonquantal release, the functional role and the mechanism of excitatory actions of GABA, its release from glial cells, and the energetics of its metabolic turnover.

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