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Activation of the GABAA Receptor Inhibits the Proliferative Effects of bFGF in Cortical Progenitor Cells



Recent studies have localized γ-aminobutyric acid (GABA)-containing neurons and identified cells that express subunits of the GABAA receptor in the proliferative zone of the developing cerebral cortex and have demonstrated a role for GABA in cortical neurogenesis. We examined here the interactions between a number of neurotrophic factors, known to be involved in cortical cell proliferation and differentiation, and the GABAergic system (GABA and GABAA receptors) in the regulation of cell production in dissociated cortical cell cultures. We found that basic fibroblast growth factor (bFGF) increased the number of cells labelled for the α1 subunit of the GABAA receptor but not for the α2, α3 or α5 subunits. The α1 subunit was expressed by the majority of proliferating neuroepithelial cells as well as by differentiated neurons. We also found that activation of the GABAA receptor by GABA or muscimol inhibited the proliferative effects of bFGF on cortical progenitors, leading to an increased number of differentiated neurons. These results suggest that bFGF stimulates cell proliferation and GABAA receptor expression in cultured progenitor cells of the developing neocortex, and that GABA regulates cell production by providing a feedback signal that terminates cell division.