The delta subunit is a novel subunit of the pentameric gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA)(A) receptor that conveys special pharmacological and functional properties to recombinant receptors and may be particularly important in mediating tonic inhibition. Mice that lack the delta subunit have been produced by gene-targeting technology, and these mice were studied with immunohistochemical and immunoblot methods to determine whether changes in GABA(A) receptors were limited to deletion of the delta subunit or whether alterations in other GABA(A) receptor subunits were also present in the delta subunit knockout (delta-/-) mice. Immunohistochemical studies of wild-type mice confirmed the restricted distribution of the delta subunit in the forebrain. Regions with moderate to high levels of delta subunit expression included thalamic relay nuclei, caudate-putamen, molecular layer of the dentate gyrus, and outer layers of the cerebral cortex. Virtually no delta subunit labeling was evident in adjacent regions, such as the thalamic reticular nucleus, hypothalamus, and globus pallidus. Comparisons of the expression of other subunits in delta-/- and wild-type mice demonstrated substantial changes in the alpha4 and gamma2 subunits of the GABA(A) receptor in the delta-/- mice. gamma2 Subunit expression was increased, whereas alpha4 subunit expression was decreased in delta-/- mice. Importantly, alterations of both the alpha4 and the gamma2 subunits were confined primarily to brain regions that normally expressed the delta subunit. This suggests that the additional subunit changes are directly linked to loss of the delta subunit and could reflect local changes in subunit composition and function of GABA(A) receptors in delta-/- mice.
Copyright 2002 Wiley-Liss, Inc.