Localisation of GABA(A) receptor epsilon-subunit in cholinergic and aminergic neurones and evidence for co-distribution with the theta-subunit in rat brain

Neuroscience. 2002;111(3):657-69. doi: 10.1016/s0306-4522(02)00033-7.


In situ hybridisation and immunohistochemical methodologies suggest the existence of a large diversity of GABA(A) receptor subtypes in the brain. These are hetero-oligomeric proteins modulated by a number of clinically important drugs, depending on their subunit composition. We recently cloned and localised the rat GABA(A) receptor epsilon-subunit by in situ hybridisation and immunohistochemical procedures. Here, in a dual-labelling immunohistochemical study in the rat brain, we used our affinity-purified antiserum to epsilon with antisera to markers of cholinergic, catecholaminergic, and serotonergic neurones. As far as cholinergic systems were concerned, epsilon-immunoreactivity was expressed in all forebrain cell-groups, as well as in the caudal lateral pontine tegmentum and dorsal motor nucleus of the vagus nerve. As far as dopaminergic systems were concerned, epsilon-immunoreactivity was found to be expressed in a great number of hypothalamic cell-groups (A15, A14 and A12) and in the substantia nigra pars compacta. The noradrenergic, and to a lesser extent, adrenergic cell-groups were all epsilon-immunoreactive. Also, epsilon-immunoreactivity was detected in all serotonergic cell-groups. We also revealed by in situ hybridisation in a monkey brain that epsilon mRNA was expressed in the locus coeruleus, as previously observed in rats. Finally, by using in situ hybridisation in rat brains, we compared the distribution of the mRNA of epsilon with that of the recently cloned theta-subunit of the GABA(A) receptor. Both subunits showed strikingly overlapping expression patterns throughout the brain, especially in the septum, preoptic areas, various hypothalamic nuclei, amygdala, and thalamus, as well as the aforementioned monoaminergic cell-groups. No theta-mRNA signals were detected in cholinergic cell-groups. Taken together with previously published evidence of the presence of the alpha3-subunit in monoamine- or acetylcholine-containing systems, our data suggest the existence of novel GABA(A) receptors comprising alpha3/epsilon in cholinergic and alpha3/theta/epsilon in monoaminergic cell-groups.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Acetylcholine / metabolism
  • Animals
  • Brain / cytology
  • Brain / metabolism*
  • Catecholamines / metabolism
  • Choline O-Acetyltransferase / biosynthesis
  • Female
  • Fluorescent Antibody Technique
  • Haplorhini
  • Immunohistochemistry
  • In Situ Hybridization
  • Male
  • Neurons / cytology
  • Neurons / metabolism*
  • Protein Subunits*
  • RNA, Messenger / biosynthesis
  • Rats
  • Rats, Wistar
  • Receptors, GABA-A / analysis
  • Receptors, GABA-A / biosynthesis*
  • Receptors, GABA-A / genetics
  • Serotonin / metabolism
  • Tissue Distribution
  • Tyrosine 3-Monooxygenase / biosynthesis


  • Catecholamines
  • Protein Subunits
  • RNA, Messenger
  • Receptors, GABA-A
  • Serotonin
  • Tyrosine 3-Monooxygenase
  • Choline O-Acetyltransferase
  • Acetylcholine