Selective Brain Distribution and Distinctive Synaptic Architecture of Dual Glutamatergic-GABAergic Neurons

David H. Root, Shiliang Zhang, David J. Barker, Jorge Miranda-Barrientos, Bing Liu, Hui Ling Wang, Marisela Morales

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

15 Scopus citations


For decades, it has been thought that glutamate and GABA are released by distinct neurons. However, some mouse neurons innervating the lateral habenula (LHb) co-release glutamate and GABA. Here, we mapped the distribution of neurons throughout the rat brain that co-express vesicular transporters for the accumulation of glutamate (VGluT2) or GABA (VGaT) and for GABA synthesis (GAD). We found concentrated groups of neurons that co-express VGluT2, VGaT, and GAD mRNAs within subdivisions of the ventral tegmental area (VTA), entopeduncular (EPN), and supramammillary (SUM) nuclei. Single axon terminals established by VTA, EPN, or SUM neurons form a common synaptic architecture involving asymmetric (putative excitatory) and symmetric (putative inhibitory) synapses. Within the LHb, which receives co-transmitted glutamate and GABA from VTA and EPN, VGluT2 and VGaT are distributed on separate synaptic vesicles. We conclude that single axon terminals from VGluT2 and VGaT co-expressing neurons co-transmit glutamate and GABA from distinct synaptic vesicles at independent synapses. Root et al. identify concentrated populations of glutamate and GABA co-transmitting neurons in VTA, SUM, and EPN. Single axon terminals from these neurons form a common synaptic architecture that co-transmits glutamate and GABA from distinct synaptic vesicles at independent asymmetric or symmetric synapses.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)3465-3479
Number of pages15
JournalCell Reports
Issue number12
StatePublished - Jun 19 2018
Externally publishedYes


All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)


  • GABA
  • GABA-glutamate co-release
  • co-transmission
  • entopeduncular nucleus
  • glutamate
  • hippocampus
  • lateral habenula
  • supramammillary nucleus
  • ventral tegmental area

Cite this