Expression of functional γ-aminobutyric acid type A receptors in Schwann-like adult stem cells

J Mol Neurosci. 2012 Jul;47(3):619-30. doi: 10.1007/s12031-011-9698-9. Epub 2012 Jan 4.


γ-Aminobutyric acid (GABA) receptors are present in peripheral and central glia and modulate important physiological parameters of glial cells. Schwann cells (SC), the peripheral nervous system glial cells, play essential roles in nerve regeneration, but they are unsuitable for bioengineering of nerve repair. Increasing interest has been focused on adult stem cells derived from bone marrow (BM-MSC) or adipose tissue (ASC), which can be differentiated into SC-like phenotype and used as SC replacements. SC-like adult stem cells express GABA-B receptors that can modulate their proliferation. The aim of this study was to investigate GABA-A receptors functional expression in differentiated stem cells. BM-MSC and ASC were found to express GABA-A α2 and β3, but not β1 mRNA transcripts. Protein expression levels of GABA-A α2 and β3 receptors were upregulated following SC-like differentiation as shown by Western blot studies. GABA-A receptor stimulation with muscimol increased the proliferation rate of SC, differentiated BM-MSC and differentiated ASC. In conclusion, GABA-A α2 and β3 receptor subunits are present in BM-MSC and ASC and upregulated following glial differentiation. GABA-A subunits in differentiated stem cells and SC assemble in functional receptors modulating cell proliferation. Functional GABA-A and GABA-B receptors represent a possible pharmacological target to modulate SC-like stem cells physiology.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adipose Tissue / cytology
  • Adipose Tissue / metabolism
  • Adult Stem Cells / metabolism*
  • Age Factors
  • Animals
  • Animals, Newborn
  • Cells, Cultured
  • Hematopoietic Stem Cells / metabolism
  • Neuroglia / metabolism
  • Rats
  • Rats, Sprague-Dawley
  • Receptors, GABA-A / biosynthesis*
  • Receptors, GABA-A / genetics*
  • Receptors, GABA-B / biosynthesis
  • Receptors, GABA-B / genetics
  • Schwann Cells / metabolism*
  • Sciatic Nerve / cytology
  • Sciatic Nerve / metabolism


  • Receptors, GABA-A
  • Receptors, GABA-B