GABA, glycine, aspartate, glutamate and taurine in the vestibular nuclei: an immunocytochemical investigation in the cat

Exp Brain Res. 1990;79(3):547-63. doi: 10.1007/BF00229324.


The distributions of five amino acids with well-established neuroexcitatory or neuroinhibitory properties were investigated in the feline vestibular complex. Consecutive semithin sections of plastic-embedded tissue were incubated with antisera raised against protein-glutaraldehyde conjugates of GABA, glycine, aspartate, glutamate and taurine. This approach allowed us to study the relative densities of the different immunoreactivities at the level of individual cell profiles. The results indicate that in the vestibular nuclei, neuronal colocalization of two or more neuroactive amino acids is the rule rather than an exception. Colocalization was found of immunoreactivities for GABA and glycine; glycine, aspartate and glutamate; glycine and aspartate, and glutamate and aspartate. GABA immunoreactive neurons were generally small and were found scattered throughout the vestibular complex. Glycine immunoreactive neurons were similarly distributed, except in the superior nucleus where the latter type of neuron could not be detected. Neuronal profiles colocalizing immunoreactivities for GABA and glycine occurred in all nuclei, but were most numerous in the lateral nucleus. The vast majority of the neurons showed noteworthy staining for glutamate and aspartate, although the level of immunoreactivities varied (e.g., the large neurons in the lateral and descending nuclei were more intensely aspartate immunoreactive than the smaller ones). Taurine-like immunoreactivity did not occur in neuronal cell bodies but appeared in Purkinje cell axons and in glial cell profiles. The functional significance of the complex pattern of amino acid colocalization remains to be clarified. In particular it needs to be distinguished between metabolic and transmitter pools of the different amino acids. The present results call for caution when attempts are made to conclude about transmitter identity on the basis of amino acid contents alone.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Amino Acids / metabolism*
  • Animals
  • Aspartic Acid / metabolism
  • Cats
  • Glutamates / metabolism
  • Glutamic Acid
  • Glycine / metabolism*
  • Immunohistochemistry
  • Neurotransmitter Agents / metabolism*
  • Taurine / metabolism
  • Vestibular Nuclei / cytology
  • Vestibular Nuclei / metabolism*
  • gamma-Aminobutyric Acid / metabolism*


  • Amino Acids
  • Glutamates
  • Neurotransmitter Agents
  • Taurine
  • Aspartic Acid
  • Glutamic Acid
  • gamma-Aminobutyric Acid
  • Glycine