Contribution of brainstem GABAergic circuitry to descending antinociceptive controls: II. Electron microscopic immunocytochemical evidence of GABAergic control over the projection from the periaqueductal gray to the nucleus raphe magnus in the rat

J Comp Neurol. 1990 Dec 8;302(2):378-93. doi: 10.1002/cne.903020214.


Pharmacological, physiological, and behavioral studies suggest that inhibitory GABAergic neurons influence the projection from the midbrain periaqueductal gray matter to the medullary nucleus raphe magnus. The present study used electron microscopic immunocytochemical techniques to examine the morphology and synaptic relationships of GABA-immunoreactive terminals in the ventrolateral periaqueductal gray. These putative GABAergic terminals comprise almost 40% of all axon terminals in the periaqueductal gray. GABA-immunoreactive terminals contain small, clear, pleomorphic or round, vesicles, and 46% also contain some dense-cored vesicles. In some experiments we also used a colloidal gold-conjugated retrograde tracer to label periaqueductal gray neurons that project to the nucleus raphe magnus. About half of the synaptic inputs onto the cell bodies and proximal dendrites of retrogradely labeled neurons are GABA-immunoreactive; these putative GABAergic synapses, which directly control activity in neurons projecting from the periaqueductal gray to the nucleus raphe magnus, might mediate the antinociception-related effects of exogenous GABAA receptor ligands.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Brain Stem / chemistry*
  • Brain Stem / physiology
  • Immunoenzyme Techniques
  • Male
  • Microscopy, Electron
  • Neural Pathways / chemistry
  • Pain / physiopathology*
  • Periaqueductal Gray / chemistry*
  • Raphe Nuclei / chemistry*
  • Rats
  • Rats, Inbred Strains
  • Synapses / chemistry
  • gamma-Aminobutyric Acid / analysis*
  • gamma-Aminobutyric Acid / physiology


  • gamma-Aminobutyric Acid