Antisera to glutamic acid decarboxylase (GAD) and γ-aminobutyric acid (GABA) have been used to characterize the morphology and distribution of presumed GABAergic neurons and axon terminals within the macaque striate cortex. Despite some differences in the relative sensitivity of these antisera for detecting cell bodies and terminals, the overall patterns of labeling appear quite similar. GABAergic axon terminals are particularly prominent in zones known to receive the bulk of the projections from the lateral geniculate nucleus; laminae 4C, 4A, and the cytochrome-rich patches of lamina 3. In lamina 4A, GABAergic terminals are distributed in a honeycomb pattern which appears to match closely the spatial pattern of geniculate terminations in this region. Quantitative analysis of axon terminals that contain flat vesicles and form symmetric synaptic contacts (FS terminals) in lamina 4Cβ and in lamina 5 suggest that the prominence of GAD and GABA axon terminal labeling in the geniculate recipient zones is due, at least in part, to the presence of larger GABAergic axon terminals in these regions.
GABAergic cell bodies and their initial dendritic segments display morphological features characteristic of nonpyramidal neurons and are found in all layers of striate cortex. The density of GAD and GABA immunoreactive neurons is greatest in laminae 2–3A, 4A, and 4Cβ. The distribution of GABAergic neurons within lamina 3 does not appear to be correlated with the patchy distribution of cytochrome oxidase in this region; i.e., there is no significant difference in the density of GAD and GABA immunoreactive neurons in cytochrome-rich and cytochrome-poor regions of lamina 3.
Counts of labeled and unlabeled neurons indicate that GABA immunoreactive neurons make up at least 15% of the neurons in striate cortex. Layer 1 is distinct from the other cortical layers by virtue of its high percentage (77–81%) of GABAergic neurons. Among the other layers, the proportion of GABAergic neurons varies from roughly 20% in laminae 2–3A to 12% in laminae 5 and 6.
Finally, there are conspicuous laminar differences in the size and dendritic arrangement of GAD and GABA immunoreactive neurons. Lamina 4Cα and lamina 6 are distinguished from the other layers by the presence of populations of large GABAergic neurons, some of which have horizontally spreading dendritic processes. GABAergic neurons within the superficial layers are significantly smaller and the majority appear to have vertically oriented dendritic processes. These results provide support for the idea that GABAergic neurons make up a significant proportion of the neurons within the macaque striate cortex and that there are laminar differences in the number and the types of GABAergic neurons—differences that may be relevant for understanding the contributions of GABA-mediated inhibition to striate cortex function.