The gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) plasma membrane transporters (GATs) mediate GABA uptake into presynaptic axon terminals and glial processes, thus contributing to the regulation of the magnitude and duration of the action of GABA at the synaptic cleft. The aim of the present study was to investigate the expression of three high-affinity GABA transporters (GAT-1, GAT-2, and GAT-3) in the periaqueductal gray matter (PAG) of adult cats by using immunocytochemistry with affinity-purified antibodies. Light microscopic observations revealed GAT-1 immunoreactivity in punctate structures, particularly dense in the lateral portion of the dorsolateral PAG column. Weak GAT-2-immunopositive puncta were homogeneously distributed in the PAG. GAT-3 immunoreactivity was detected in each column of the PAG but was more intense in the dorsolateral PAG column and around the aqueduct. Electron microscopic studies showed GAT-1 immunoreactivity in distal astroglial processes, in unmyelinated and small myelinated axons, and in axon terminals making symmetric synapses on both PAG neurons and dendrites. GAT-2 immunoreactivity was present mostly in the form of patches of different sizes in the cytoplasm of neuronal elements like the perikarya and dendrites of PAG neurons, in myelinated and unmyelinated axons, and in the axon terminals forming both symmetric and asymmetric synapses. Labeling was also observed in nonneuronal elements. Astrocytic cell bodies and their distal processes as well as the ependymal cells lining the wall of the aqueduct showed patches of GAT-2 immunoreactivity. Electron microscopic observation revealed GAT-3 immunoreactivity exclusively in distal astrocytic processes adjacent to the somata of PAG neurons and in axon terminals making both symmetric and asymmetric synapses. The present results suggest that three types of termination systems of GABAergic transmission are present in the cat periaqueductal gray matter.
Copyright 2000 Wiley-Liss, Inc.