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Keywords:

  • GABA;
  • glutamate decarboxylase;
  • GAD65 enzyme;
  • vesicular glutamate transporter 1;
  • vesicular glutamate transporter 2;
  • amygdala;
  • stress

Abstract

This study aimed at characterizing the neurotransmitter phenotype of enkephalin neurons in the rat amygdaloid complex. We first established the detailed distribution of vesicular glutamate transporters 1 and 2 (VGLUT1 and -2) and glutamate decarboxylase 65 (GAD65) in the amygdala by using in situ hybridization. In the amygdaloid complex, GAD65 is strongly expressed in striatal-like divisions, namely, the anterior amygdaloid area, the central nucleus (CEA), the intercalated nuclei, and the dorsal part of the medial nucleus (MEA). VGLUT1 and -2 expression is mostly segregated to specific divisions of the amygdale, with VGLUT2 being expressed only in the MEA, the anterior cortical nucleus (COAa), and the anterior basomedial nucleus (BMAa), whereas VGLUT1 is expressed in all other divisions of the amygdala. Second, we assessed the co-expression of preproenkephalin (ppENK) with GAD65, VGLUT1, or VGLUT2 by using double fluorescent in situ hybridization. We found that ppENK mRNA co-localized exclusively with GAD65 in all striatal-like structures of the amygdaloid complex with the exception of the MEA, where ENK also co-localized with VGLUT2 mRNA. This co-localization is most apparent in the posteroventral part of the MEA, where 70% of ENKergic cells expressed VGLUT2. In addition, ppENK also co-localized with VGLUT1 because more than 95% of ENK cells in the basolateral amygdala expressed VGLUT1. In contrast, less than 25% of ENKergic cells expressed VGLUT1 in the lateral nucleus of the amygdale, with the majority of ENK cells expressing GAD65 mRNA in this nucleus. These results have broad implications for understanding the functional roles of enkephalinergic neurotransmission in the amygdaloid complex. J. Comp. Neurol. 506:943–959, 2008. © 2007 Wiley-Liss, Inc.