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Cell Tissue Res. 1981;218(3):567-79.

Effect of GABA-administration on murine neuroblastoma cells in culture. I. Increased membrane dynamics and formation of specialized contacts.


(Gamma aminobutyric acid) GABA was applied to cultures of mouse neuroblastoma cells of different ages at concentrations ranging from 10(-4) to 10(-6) M. The cultures were exposed to GABA either in short term experiments for 2 h to 2 days or for longer periods by adding the substance twice within 10 days at 5-day intervals. The following effects were observed: (1) There was a strong proliferation of coated vesicles, appearing to derive from the Golgi complex and the rough endoplasmic reticulum (RER), and also showing all intermediate stages of fusion and pinching off from the plasma membranes. (2) In numerous areas, electron-dense material aggregated at the inner aspect of the plasma membrane and around small invaginations of the plasmalemma. (3) The number and area of specialized contacts increased between cells and their processes. (4) Similar to cultures free of GABA, varicosities and terminal swellings of the cells and their processes were filled with small round vesicle, 40--60 nm in diameter, or with smooth, very large, empty-appearing vesicular inclusions, or with flat pleiomorphic vesicles. In addition, mitochondria and some formations of the smooth endoplasmic reticulum (SER) appeared, and primitive contacts (symmetrical densities) were formed. (5) Dense-cored vesicles were found peripherally and linearly arranged, surrounded by an electron-dense substance. (6) Electron-dense material of unknown origin was seen between cells or their processes near the peripherally arranged dense-cored vesicles. Exogenous GABA may play a specific role in the early stages of synaptogenesis, since it showed a positive effect on the neuroblastoma cells, which in the absence of GABA are only capable of forming primitive or immature presynaptic elements. The significance of the peripheral accumulation of dense-cored vesicles, accompanied by an amorphous, electron-dense substance occurring both intra- and extracellularly is discussed.

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