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J Comp Neurol. 1998 Jun 22;396(1):51-63.

Neuronal and glial localization of GAT-1, a high-affinity gamma-aminobutyric acid plasma membrane transporter, in human cerebral cortex: with a note on its distribution in monkey cortex.

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Institute of Human Physiology, University of Ancona, Italy.


High-affinity gamma-aminobutyric (GABA) plasma membrane transporters (GATs) influence the action of GABA, the main inhibitory neurotransmitter in the human cerebral cortex. In this study, the cellular expression of GAT-1, the main cortical GABA transporter, was investigated in the human cerebral cortex by using immunocytochemistry with affinity-purified polyclonal antibodies directed to the C-terminus of rat GAT-1. In temporal and prefrontal association cortex (Brodmann's areas 21 and 46) and in cingulofrontal transition cortex (area 32), specific GAT-1 immunoreactivity (ir) was localized to numerous puncta and fibers in all cortical layers. GAT-1+ puncta were distributed homogeneously in all cortical layers, although they were slightly more numerous in layers II-IV, and appeared to have a preferential relationship to the somata and proximal dendrites of unlabeled pyramidal cells, even though, in many cases, they were also observed around nonpyramidal cells. Electron microscopic observations showed that GAT-1+ puncta were axon terminals that formed exclusively symmetric synapses. In addition, some distal astrocytic processes also contained immunoreaction product. Analysis of the patterns of GAT-1 labeling in temporal and prefrontal association areas (21 and 46), in cingulofrontal transition areas (32), and in somatic sensory and motor areas (1 and 4) of the monkey cortex revealed that its distribution varies according to the type of cortex examined and indicated that the distribution of GAT-1 is similar in anatomically corresponding areas of different species. The present study demonstrates that, in the human homotypical cortex, GAT-1 is expressed by both inhibitory axon terminals and astrocytic processes. This localization of GAT-1 is compatible with a major role for this transporter in GABA uptake at GABAergic synapses and suggests that GAT-1 may contribute to determining GABA levels in the extracellular space.

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