The alpha 6 subunit of the GABAA receptor is concentrated in both inhibitory and excitatory synapses on cerebellar granule cells

J Neurosci. 1996 Jan;16(1):103-14. doi: 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.16-01-00103.1996.


Although three distinct subunits seem to be sufficient to form a functional pentameric GABAA receptor channel, cerebellar granule cells express nRNA for nine subunits. They receive GABAergic input from a relatively homogenous population of Golgi cells. It is not known whether all subunits are distributed similarly on the surface of granule cells or whether some of them have differential subcellular distribution resulting in distinct types of synaptic and/or extrasynaptic channels. Antibodies to different parts of the alpha 6 and alpha 1 subunits of the GABAA receptor and electron microscopic immunogold localization were used to determine the precise subcellular distribution of these subunits in relation to specific synaptic inputs. Both subunits were present in the extrasynaptic dendritic and somatic membranes at lower densities than in synaptic junctions. The alpha 6 and alpha 1 subunits were colocalized in many GABAergic Golgi synapses, demonstrating that both subunits are involved in synaptic transmission in the same synapse. Synapses immunopositive for only one of the alpha subunits were also found. The alpha 6, but not the alpha 1, subunit was also concentrated in glutamatergic mossy fiber synapses, indicating that the alpha 6 subunit may have several roles depending on its different locations. The results demonstrate a partially differential synaptic targeting of two distinct GABAA receptor subunits on the surface of the same type of neuron.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Antibody Specificity
  • Cerebellum / cytology*
  • Female
  • Golgi Apparatus / chemistry
  • Golgi Apparatus / ultrastructure
  • Immunohistochemistry
  • Microscopy, Immunoelectron
  • Neurons / chemistry*
  • Neurons / physiology
  • Rats
  • Rats, Wistar
  • Receptors, GABA-A / analysis
  • Receptors, GABA-A / immunology
  • Receptors, GABA-A / ultrastructure*
  • Synapses / physiology
  • Synapses / ultrastructure*
  • Tissue Embedding


  • Receptors, GABA-A