Glutamic acid decarboxylase (GAD) is the biosynthetic enzyme for gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA), the major inhibitory neurotransmitter in the central nervous system (CNS) of vertebrates. In addition to the adult CNS, GABA and GAD also have been detected in embryos, although their precise localization and specific functions in embryonic development have not been elucidated. In this paper, the authors studied the cellular distribution of two GAD isoforms, GAD65 and GAD67, in midgestation mouse embryos by in situ hybridization histochemistry. With few exceptions, it was found that GAD65 and GAD67 mRNAs are localized in overlapping cellular domains of the embryonic CNS that later develop into regions with a strong GABAergic contribution. The GAD-expressing cells are situated in the differentiating zone of the embryonic day 10.5 (E10.5) through E11.5 CNS and in the subventricular zone and the mantle zone of the E12.5 CNS, which suggests that they are committed neuronal precursors. By using a specific serum for GABA, a similar pattern of distribution was obtained, indicating that GAD mRNAs are translated efficiently into enzymatically active GAD, which produces embryonic GABA. The expression domains of GAD overlap with those of genes that are known to be involved in the patterning of the embryonic CNS. The two GAD mRNAs also are detected outside of the embryonic CNS in various cell types, mainly those of placodal and neural crest origin. This pattern of expression is consistent with the notion that GAD and its product, GABA, play a signaling role during development.
Copyright 2000 Wiley-Liss, Inc.