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Neurochem Int. 2012 Sep;61(4):506-16. doi: 10.1016/j.neuint.2012.03.018. Epub 2012 Apr 3.

Ontogenetic changes in the distribution of the vesicular GABA transporter VGAT correlate with the excitation/inhibition shift of GABA action.

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The Biotechnology Centre of Oslo, University of Oslo, Oslo, Norway.


GABA is the major inhibitory neurotransmitter in the adult CNS and is among others involved in the synchronization of large neuronal networks. During development, GABA acts as a morphogenetic factor and has transient excitatory actions in many brain regions. One distinct protein, the vesicular GABA transporter (VGAT), has been identified accumulating GABA into presynaptic vesicles prior to its exocytotic release. The function of VGAT and its distribution is well defined in the adult, but its contribution to the transient excitatory action at putative GABAergic nerve terminals in the immature brain and its potential roles in putative glutamatergic nerve terminals remain elusive. We have studied VGAT expression in the brain from late embryonic stages through several postnatal stages until adulthood. Quantitative immunoblotting and immunolabeling of tissue sections at the light microscope and the electron microscope levels show an abrupt augmentation in VGAT staining in the cerebral cortex during the first three postnatal weeks, resembling the increase in other proteins involved in GABA synthesis and recycling in the same time frame - such as GAD65, GAD67, GAT1 (Slc6a1) and SN1 (Slc38a3) - and coincides with the synaptogenetic spurt. Dynamic changes in the expression of VGAT are seen in many cellular populations and in several layers in different brain regions. However, mossy fiber terminals (MFT) elude staining for VGAT. We also demonstrate that VGAT(+) nerve terminals undergo a developmental reorganization so that from targeting primarily the dendrites of the principal neurons in several brain regions in the immature brain, they target the soma of the same cells in the adult. This shift in the targeted subcellular compartment coincides with the conversion of the chloride gradient across neuronal membranes and suggests that it may be important for the shift of GABA action from excitation to inhibition and for the establishment of the potent synchronization of neuronal networks.

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