GABA and glycine in the central auditory system of the mustache bat: structural substrates for inhibitory neuronal organization

J Comp Neurol. 1995 May 8;355(3):317-53. doi: 10.1002/cne.903550302.


The distribution and morphology of neurons and axonal endings (puncta) immunostained with antibodies to gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) and glycine (Gly) were analyzed in auditory brainstem, thalamic, and cortical centers in the mustache bat. The goals of the study were (1) to compare and contrast the location of GABAergic and glycinergic neurons and puncta, (2) to determine whether nuclei containing immunoreactive neurons likewise have a similar concentration of puncta, (3) to assess the uniformity of immunostaining within a nucleus and to consider regional differences that were related to or independent of cytoarchitecture, and (4) to compare the patterns recognized in this bat with those in other mammals. There are nine major conclusions. (1) Glycinergic immunostaining is most pronounced in the hindbrain. (2) In the forebrain, GABA alone is present. (3) Some nuclei have GABAergic or glycinergic neurons exclusively; a few have neither. (4) Although there is sometimes a close relationship between the relative number of immunopositive neurons and the density of the puncta, just as often there is no particular correlation between them; this reflects the fact that many GABAergic and glycinergic neurons project beyond their nucleus of origin. (5) Even nuclei devoid of or with few GABAergic or glycinergic neurons contain relatively abundant numbers of puncta; some neurons receive axosomatic terminals of each type. (6) In a few nuclei there are physiological subregions with specific local patterns of immunostaining. (7) The patterns of immunostaining resemble those in other mammals; the principal exceptions are in nuclei that, in the bat, are hypertrophied (such as those of the lateral lemniscus) and in the medial geniculate body. (8) Cellular colocalization of GABA and Gly is specific to only a few nuclei. (9) GABA and glutamic acid decarboxylase (GAD) immunostaining have virtually identical distributions in each nucleus. Several implications follow. First, the arrangements of GABA and Gly in the central auditory system represent all possible patterns, ranging from mutually exclusive to overlapping within a nucleus to convergence of both types of synaptic endings on single neurons. Second, although both transmitters are present in the hindbrain, glycine appears to be dominant, and it is often associated with circuitry in which precise temporal control of aspects of neuronal discharge is critical. Third, the auditory system, especially at or below the level of the midbrain, contains significant numbers of GABAergic or glycinergic projection neurons. The latter feature distinguishes it from the central visual and somatic sensory pathways.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Auditory Pathways / chemistry*
  • Brain Mapping
  • Chiroptera / anatomy & histology*
  • Chiroptera / metabolism
  • Cochlear Nucleus / chemistry
  • Glycine / analysis*
  • Immunohistochemistry
  • Inferior Colliculi / chemistry
  • Neural Inhibition / physiology*
  • Neurons / ultrastructure*
  • Olivary Nucleus / chemistry
  • Pons / chemistry
  • Presynaptic Terminals / ultrastructure
  • gamma-Aminobutyric Acid / analysis*


  • gamma-Aminobutyric Acid
  • Glycine