Targets and Quantitative Distribution of GABAergic Synapses in the Visual Cortex of the Cat

Authors

  • C. Beaulieu,

    1. Medical Research Council, Anatomical Neuropharmacology Unit, Department of Pharmacology, Oxford University, South Parks Road, Oxford OX1 3QT, UK
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  • P. Somogyi

    Corresponding author
    1. Medical Research Council, Anatomical Neuropharmacology Unit, Department of Pharmacology, Oxford University, South Parks Road, Oxford OX1 3QT, UK
      Correspondence to: P. Somogyi, as above
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  • 1

    University of British Columbia, Department of Ophthalmology, 2550 Willow St, Vancouver, BC V5Z 3N9, Canada

Correspondence to: P. Somogyi, as above

Abstract

The morphology and postsynaptic targets of GABA-containing boutons were determined in the striate cortex of cat, using a postembedding immunocytochemical technique at the electron microscopic level. Two types of terminals, both making symmetrical synaptic contacts, were GABA-positive. The first type (95% of all GABA-positive boutons) contained small pleomorphic vesicles, the second type (5%) contained larger ovoid vesicles. Furthermore, 99% of all cortical boutons containing pleomorphic vesicles were GABA positive, and all boutons with pleomorphic vesicles made symmetrical synaptic contacts. These results together with previously published stereological data (Beaulieu and Colonnier, 1985, 1987) were used to estimate the density of GABA-containing synapses, which is about 48 million/mm3 in the striate cortex. The postsynaptic targets of GABA positive boutons were also identified and the distribution was calculated to be as follows: 58% dendritic shafts, 26.4% dendritic spines, 13.1% somata and 2.5% axon initial segments. A total of 11% of the postsynaptic targets were GABA immunoreactive and therefore originated from GABAergic neurons. The results demonstrate that the majority of GABAergic synapses exert their action on the membrane of dendrites and spines rather than on the somata and axons of neurons.

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