Nonradioactive in situ hybridization methods with digoxigenin-labeled cRNA probes were used to localize two glutamic acid decarboxylase (GAD) mRNAs in rat brain. These mRNAs encode two forms of GAD that both synthesize GABA but differ in a number of characteristics including their molecular size (65 and 67 kDa). For each GAD mRNA, discrete neuronal labeling with high cellular resolution and low background staining was obtained in most populations of known GABA neurons. In addition, the current method revealed differences in the intensity of labeling among neurons for each GAD mRNA, suggesting that the relative concentrations of each GAD mRNA may be higher in some groups of GABA neurons than in others.
Most major classes of GABA neurons were labeled for each GAD mRNA. In some groups of GABA neurons, the labeling for the two mRNAs was virtually identical, as in the reticular nucleus of the thalamus. In other groups of neurons, although there was substantial labeling for each GAD mRNA, labeling for one of the mRNAs was noticeably stronger than for the other. In most brain regions, such as the cerebellar cortex, labeling for GAD67 mRNA was stronger than for GAD65 mRNA, but there were a few brain regions in which labeling for GAD65 mRNA was more pronounced, and these included some regions of the hypothalamus. Finally, some groups of GABA neurons were predominantly labeled for one of the GAD mRNAs and showed little or no detectable labeling for the other GAD mRNA, as, for example, in neurons of the tuberomammillary nucleus of the hypothalamus where labeling for GAD67 mRNA was very strong but no labeling for GAD65 mRNA was evident. The findings suggest that most classes of GABA neurons in the central nervous system (CNS) contain mRNAs for at least two forms of GAD, and thus, have dual enzyme systems for the synthesis of GABA. Higher levels of one or the other GAD mRNA in certain groups of GABA neurons may be related to differences in the functional properties of these neurons and their means of regulating GABA synthesis. © 1993 Wiley-Liss, Inc.