Neuronal precursors and immature cortical neurons actively accumulate Cl- and as a consequence depolarize in response to GABAA receptor activation. With maturity, intracellular Cl- decreases resulting in a shift towards GABAA inhibition. These observations suggest that changes in expression of cation-Cl- cotransporters may have a significant role in the ontogeny of neuronal Cl- homeostasis. Using ribonuclease protection analysis and in situ hybridization we examined the developmental expression of all presently known members of the cation-Cl- cotransporter gene family in rat brain. Of the inwardly directed cotransporters, NKCC-1, NKCC-2, and NCC-1, only NKCC-1 was detected at significant levels in brain. NKCC-1 was expressed in neurons, appearing first in cortical plate but not in ventricular or subventricular zone. Expression levels peaked by the third postnatal week and were maintained into adulthood. The outwardly directed cotransporters, KCC-1 and KCC-2, demonstrated significantly different levels and time courses of expression. KCC-1 was expressed prenatally at very low levels which increased little over the course of development. In contrast, KCC-2 expression appeared perinatally and increased dramatically after the first week of postnatal life. Differential changes in expression of this gene family occurred during periods of critical shifts in chloride homeostasis and GABA response suggestive of a role in these processes. Furthermore the absence of expression of known inwardly directed cotransporters in Cl- accumulating neuroepithelia and lack of evidence for glial expression suggests that as yet unidentified members of this gene family may be involved in chloride homeostasis in immature neuronal precursors and neuroglia.
Copyright 1998 Elsevier Science B.V.