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Brain Res. 1994 Aug 8;653(1-2):199-209.

Rapid postmortem changes in the cellular localisation of amino acid transmitters in the retina as assessed by immunocytochemistry.

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Department of Physiology and Pharmacology, University of Queensland, Brisbane, Australia.


We have assessed by means of immunocytochemistry, the cellular distributions of the amino acid transmitters GABA, glycine and glutamate, and the free-radical scavenger taurine, in the retinae of adult rabbits at various times after death. Within 10 min of death, horizontal cells began to display immunoreactivity for GABA, whilst displaced amacrine cells began to display immunoreactivity for glycine. By 40 min postmortem, GABA was present in glial cells. Glutamate, which is not normally detectable in retinal glia, was detected in such glia by 20 min postmortem. By contrast immunocytochemically detectable glycine did not accumulate in glia. There was a gradual diminution of immunoreactivity for taurine in glial cells and photoreceptors. By 2 h postmortem, most immunoreactivity had disappeared from the retina. We conclude that amino acid transmitters show rapid changes in their distributions immediately after death, which may be related to changes in the patterns of transmitter release and uptake, and changes in degradation mechanisms. The rapid changes in cellular localisation of amino acid immunoreactivity illustrated in this study, indicate that the fixation of nervous tissues must be performed rapidly. Moreover, the massive loss of immunoreactivity by 2 h postmortem suggests that any assays for content of these transmitters at this, and subsequent time-points, will bear little resemblance to the values obtained at the time of death.

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