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Keywords:

  • GABA;
  • medulla;
  • sensory processing;
  • inhibitory neurotransmitter

Abstract

The role of γ-aminobutyric acid (GABA) in homeostatic control in the brainstem, in particular, in the nucleus tractus solitarius (NTS), is well established. However, to date, there is no detailed description of the distribution of GABAergic neurons within the NTS. The goal of the current study was to reexamine the efficacy of immunohistochemical localization of glutamic acid decarboxylase (GAD) protein, specifically the 67-kDa isoform (GAD67), as a marker for GABAergic neurons in the medulla and to provide a detailed map of GAD67-immunoreactive (-ir) cells within rat NTS by using a recently developed mouse monoclonal antibody. We describe a distribution of GAD67-ir cells in the medulla similar to that reported previously from in situ hybridization study. GAD67-ir cells were localized in regions known to contain high GABA content, including the ventrolateral medulla, raphe nuclei, and area postrema, but were absent from all motor nuclei, although dense terminal labeling was discerned in these regions. In the NTS, GAD67-ir was localized in all subregions. Semiquantitative analysis of the GAD67-ir distribution in the NTS revealed greater numbers of GAD67-ir cells medial to the solitary tract. Finally, dense GAD67 terminal labeling was found in the medial, central, intermediate, commissural, and subpostremal subregions, whereas sparse labeling was observed in the ventral subregion. Our findings support the use of immunohistochemistry for GAD67 as a marker for the localization of GABAergic cells and terminal processes in the rat brainstem. Furthermore, the reported heterogeneous distribution of GAD67-ir in the NTS suggests differential inhibitory modulation of sensory processing. J. Comp. Neurol. 493:274–290, 2005. © 2005 Wiley-Liss, Inc.