Immunoreactivity for Taurine Characterizes Subsets of Glia, GABAergic and non-GABAergic Neurons in the Neo- and Archicortex of the Rat, Cat and Rhesus Monkey: Comparison with Immunoreactivity for Homocysteic Acid


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The cerebral cortex is an area rich in taurine (2-aminoethanesulphonic acid), but only limited information exists regarding its cellular distribution. We therefore examined taurine-like immunoreactivity in the cerebral cortex of the rat, cat and macaque monkey using antiserum directed against glutaraldehyde-conjugated taurine. Immunostaining was assessed at the light and electron microscopic level, and patterns obtained in light microscopic studies were compared to those produced with antiserum to γ-aminobutyric acid (GABA) and homocysteic acid (HCA). In all three species, strong taurine-like immunoreactive perivascular endothelial cells, pericytes and oligodendrocytes were found. These cells were located throughout the neuropil, which itself showed a low level of immunoreactivity. In rats and cats, a small number of weakly taurine-enriched neurons were observed, particularly in superficial layers. In all cortical areas of the macaque, however, glial staining was matched by strong, selective staining of subpopulations of cortical neurons which were distributed in a bilaminar pattern involving layers II/III and VI. In addition, in primary visual cortex, area 17, immunopositive neurons were also present in sublayer IVCβ, while in the hippocampus strongly taurine-positive neurons were most conspicuous in the granule cell layer of the dentate gyrus. In all regions, strongly taurine-positive neurons constituted only a subpopulation of the neurons occupying a given layer. Examination of adjacent sections for GABA immunoreactivity showed that the most strongly taurine-positive neurons in layers II/III were immunoreactive for GABA. The cells located in layers IVCβ and VI, and the granule cells of the dentate gyrus, however, were GABA-negative. The morphological features of these latter groups suggested that the antiserum to taurine identifies subsets of spiny stellate, small pyramidal and dentate granule cells. None of these neurons showed immunoreactivity with antiserum to HCA in the primate; HCA-positive glia were found along the pial and white matter boundaries of the cortex, and showed no overlap with strongly taurine-positive glial elements. Although a transmitter role for taurine may be unlikely, particularly in view of its enrichment in subpopulations of both inhibitory and excitatory cells, the capacity of taurine to influence membrane-associated functions in excitable tissues, and its selective distribution demonstrated here, provides the potential for a contribution to communication between cortical cells.