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J Comp Neurol. 1993 Dec 15;338(3):337-59.

Ontogeny of GABAA receptor subunit mRNAs in rat spinal cord and dorsal root ganglia.

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Laboratory of Neurophysiology, National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, Maryland 20892.


Relatively little is known about the development of GABAA receptor subunits and their gene expression in mammalian spinal cord. The expression of mRNAs encoding 13 GABAA receptor subunits (alpha 1-6, beta 1-3, gamma 1-3, and delta) in embryonic, postnatal, and adult rat spinal cord and dorsal root ganglia (DRG) cells were studied by in situ hybridization and reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) analysis. Both techniques revealed the presence of all subunit mRNAs originally found in the rat brain, except for alpha 6, which was not detectable, and delta, which was weakly detected only by RT-PCR. Two anatomically distinctive sets of subunit mRNAs were found by in situ hybridization within the ventricular zone (VZ) and mantle zone (MZ). The trio of alpha 4, beta 1, and gamma 1 subunit mRNAs emerged exclusively in neuroepithelial cells at embryonic day 13 (E13) and remained detectable in the VZ until E17. In the MZ, beta 3 subunit mRNA was first detected at E12, while alpha 2, alpha 3, alpha 5, beta 2, gamma 2, and gamma 3 transcripts appeared at E13. Expressions of the subunit mRNAs in the MZ rapidly increased and expanded in a ventrodorsal sequence from motoneurons to dorsal horn neurons before reaching a peak in the late embryonic/early postnatal period. The mRNA expressions declined during postnatal development, by region-selective depletion, with alpha 4, alpha 5, beta 1, beta 2, gamma 1, and gamma 3 subunit mRNAs becoming barely detectable. In contrast, alpha 2, alpha 3, beta 3, and gamma 2 transcripts persisted into adulthood with distinct anatomical distributions. RT-PCR analysis revealed unique developmental patterns in the intensities of PCR products, most of which were in good agreement with developmental changes in the densities of hybridized mRNA signals. However, RT-PCR amplified minute amounts of mRNAs for alpha 1, alpha 4, alpha 5, beta 1, beta 2, gamma 1, gamma 3, and delta subunits in adults, which were not found in film autoradiograms, but could be detected in a few grain-positive cells in emulsion-dipped sections. DRG cells expressed alpha 2, alpha 3, alpha 5, beta 2, beta 3, and gamma 2 subunit mRNAs during embryogenesis but only alpha 2, beta 3, and gamma 2 subunit mRNAs were reliably detected in the adult.(ABSTRACT TRUNCATED AT 400 WORDS).

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