Synaptic and nonsynaptic localization of GABAA receptors containing the alpha5 subunit in the rat brain

J Comp Neurol. 2006 Nov 20;499(3):458-70. doi: 10.1002/cne.21115.


The alpha5 subunit of the GABA(A) receptors (GABA(A)Rs) has a restricted expression in the brain. Maximum expression of this subunit occurs in the hippocampus, cerebral cortex, and olfactory bulb. Hippocampal pyramidal cells show high expression of alpha5 subunit-containing GABA(A)Rs (alpha5-GABA(A)Rs) both in culture and in the intact brain. A large pool of alpha5-GABA(A)Rs is extrasynaptic and it has been proposed to be involved in the tonic GABAergic inhibition of the hippocampus. Nevertheless, there are no studies on the localization of the alpha5-GABA(A)Rs at the electron microscope (EM) level. By using both immunofluorescence of cultured hippocampal pyramidal cells and EM postembedding immunogold of the intact hippocampus we show that, in addition to the extrasynaptic pool, there is a pool of alpha5-GABA(A)Rs that concentrates at the GABAergic synapses in dendrites of hippocampal pyramidal cells. The results suggest that the synaptic alpha5-GABA(A)Rs might play a role in the phasic GABAergic inhibition of pyramidal neurons in hippocampus and cerebral cortex.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cells, Cultured
  • Cerebral Cortex / metabolism
  • Cerebral Cortex / ultrastructure
  • Dendrites / metabolism
  • Dendrites / ultrastructure
  • Fluorescent Antibody Technique
  • Hippocampus / metabolism*
  • Hippocampus / ultrastructure
  • Immunohistochemistry
  • Male
  • Microscopy, Electron, Transmission
  • Neural Inhibition / physiology*
  • Presynaptic Terminals / metabolism
  • Presynaptic Terminals / ultrastructure
  • Pyramidal Cells / metabolism
  • Pyramidal Cells / ultrastructure
  • Rats
  • Rats, Sprague-Dawley
  • Receptors, GABA-A / metabolism*
  • Synapses / metabolism*
  • Synapses / ultrastructure
  • Synaptic Membranes / metabolism
  • Synaptic Membranes / ultrastructure
  • Synaptic Transmission / physiology*
  • gamma-Aminobutyric Acid / metabolism*


  • Gabra5 protein, rat
  • Receptors, GABA-A
  • gamma-Aminobutyric Acid