Unique developmental patterns of GABAergic neurons in rat spinal cord

Tracy S. Tran, Ata Alijani, Patricia E. Phelps

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

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γ-aminobutyric acid (GABA)ergic neurons have been postulated to compose an important component of local circuits in the adult spinal cord, yet their identity and axonal projections have not been well defined. We have found that, during early embryonic ages (E12-E16), both glutamic acid decarboxylase 65 (GAD65) and GABA were expressed in cell bodies and growing axons, whereas at older ages (E17-P28), they were localized primarily in terminal-like structures. To determine whether these developmental changes in GAD65 and GABA were due to an intracellular shift in the distribution pattern of GAD proteins, we used a spinal cord slice model. Initial experiments demonstrated that the pattern of GABAergic neurons within organotypic cultures mimicked the expression pattern seen in embryos. Sixteen-day-old embryonic slices grown 1 day in vitro contained many GAD65- and GAD67-labeled somata, whereas those grown 4 days in vitro contained primarily terminal-like varicosities. When isolated E14-E16 slices were grown for 4 days in vitro, the width of the GAD65-labeled ventral marginal zone decreased by 40 -50%, a finding that suggests these GABAergic axons originated from sources both intrinsic and extrinsic to the slices. Finally, when axonal transport was blocked in vitro, the developmental subcellular localization of GAD65 and GAD67 was reversed, so that GABAergic cell bodies were detected at all ages examined. These data indicate that an intracellular redistribution of both forms of GAD underlie the developmental changes observed in GABAergic spinal cord neurons. Taken together, our findings suggest a rapid translocation of GAD proteins from cell bodies to synaptic terminals following axonal outgrowth and synaptogenesis.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)112-126
Number of pages15
JournalJournal of Comparative Neurology
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 3 2003
Externally publishedYes


All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Neuroscience(all)


  • Commissural neurons
  • GABA
  • Glutamic acid decarboxylase
  • Indexing terms
  • Organotypic cultures
  • Spinal cord

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