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J Comp Neurol. 1997 May 5;381(2):158-74.

Synaptogenesis in the rat retina: subcellular localization of glycine receptors, GABA(A) receptors, and the anchoring protein gephyrin.

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Neuroanatomische Abteilung, Max-Planck-Institut für Hirnforschung, Frankfurt am Main, Germany.


The mechanisms by which neurotransmitter receptors are clustered at postsynaptic sites of neurons are largely unknown. The 93-kDa peripheral membrane protein gephyrin has been shown to be essential for the formation of postsynaptic glycine receptor clusters, and there is now evidence that gephyrin can also be found at gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA)ergic synapses. In this study, we have analyzed the synaptic localization of glycine receptors, GABA(A) receptors, and the anchoring protein gephyrin in the inner plexiform layer of the developing rat retina, by using immunofluorescence with subunit specific antibodies. At early postnatal stages, the antibodies produced a diffuse staining, suggesting that early retinal neurons can express glycine and GABA(A) receptors. A clustered distribution of the subunits in "hot spots" was also observed. The number of "hot spots" increased during development and reached adult levels in about 2 weeks. Electron microscopy showed that synapses of the conventional type are present in the inner plexiform layer of the postnatal retina and that the hot spots correspond to an aggregation of receptors at postsynaptic sites. Gephyrin was also localized to "hot spots," and double immunofluorescence revealed a colocalization of gephyrin with the alpha2 subunit of the GABA(A) receptor. These results indicate that clustering of receptor subunits occurs in parallel with the formation of morphologically identifiable synaptic specializations and suggest that gephyrin may be involved in clustering of GABA(A) receptors at postsynaptic sites.

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