GAT-1, a high-affinity GABA plasma membrane transporter, is localized to neurons and astroglia in the cerebral cortex

A. Minelli, N. C. Brecha, C. Karschin, S. DeBiasi, F. Conti

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High affinity, GABA plasma membrane transporters influence the action of GABA, the main inhibitory neurotransmitter. The cellular expression of GAT- 1, a prominent GABA transporter, has been investigated in the cerebral cortex of adult rats using in situ hybridizaton with 35S-labeled RNA probes and immunocytochemistry with affinity purified polyclonal antibodies directed to the C-terminus of rat GAT-1. GAT-1 mRNA was observed in numerous neurons and in some glial cells. Double-labeling experiments were performed to compare the pattern of GAT-1 mRNA containing and GAD67 immunoreactive cells. The majority of neurons expressing GAT-1 mRNA also contained GAD67 immunoreactivity (ir), but GAT-1 mRNA was also observed in a few pyramidal neurons. GAT-1-ir was localized to numerous puncta and fibers and to astrocytic processes, was not observed in sections incubated in GAT-1 antibodies preadsorbed with rat GAT-1 C-terminal peptide, and was observed in sections incubated in GAT-1 antibodies preadsorbed with the C-terminal portion of the related peptides rat GAT-3607-627 or rat glycine transporter-1625-633. The highest number of GAT-1-ir puncta was in layer IV, followed by layers II-III. GAT-1 positive puncta appeared to have a preferential relationship to the soma and proximal dendrites of unlabeled pyramidal cells. All GAT-1 positive axon terminals formed symmetric synapses. This study demonstrates that (1) GAT-1 is expressed by both neurons and astrocytes, (2) the majority of GAT-1 expressing neurons contain GAD67, and (3) GAT-1 uptake system is more extensive than the GABA synthetizing system. These observations support the hypothesis that, in addition to its role in terminating GABA action by uptake into GABAergic axon terminals, GAT-1 influences both excitatory and inhibitory transmission by modulating the 'paracrine' spread of GABA (Isaacson et al., 1993), and suggest that astrocytes may play an important role in this process.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)7734-7746
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of Neuroscience
Issue number11
Publication statusPublished - 1995



  • astrocytes
  • GABA
  • GABA transporters
  • neocortex
  • neurons
  • synapses

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience(all)

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