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Keywords:

  • metabotropic GABA receptor;
  • pallidonigral;
  • pre-embedding immunogold;
  • presynaptic;
  • striatonigral

Abstract

The inhibitory effects of GABA within the substantia nigra (SN) are mediated in part by metabotropic GABAB receptors. To better understand the mechanisms underlying these effects, we have examined the subcellular localization of the GABAB receptor subunits, GABAB1 and GABAB2, in SN neurons and afferents using pre-embedding immunocytochemistry combined with anterograde or retrograde labelling. In both the SN pars compacta (SNc) and pars reticulata (SNr), GABAB1 and GABAB2 showed overlapping, but distinct, patterns of immunolabelling. GABAB1 was more strongly expressed by putative dopaminergic neurons in the SNc than by SNr projection neurons, whereas GABAB2 was mainly expressed in the neuropil of both regions. Immunogold labelling for GABAB1 and GABAB2 was localized in presynaptic and postsynaptic elements throughout the SN. The majority of labelling was intracellular or was associated with extrasynaptic sites on the plasma membrane. In addition, labelling for both subunits was found on the presynaptic and postsynaptic membranes at symmetric, putative GABAergic synapses, including those formed by anterogradely labelled striatonigral and pallidonigral terminals. Labelling was also observed on the presynaptic membrane and at the edge of the postsynaptic density at asymmetric, putative excitatory synapses. Double immunolabelling, using the vesicular glutamate transporter 2, revealed the glutamatergic nature of many of the immunogold-labelled asymmetric synapses. The widespread distribution of GABAB subunits in the SNc and SNr suggests that GABAB-mediated effects in these regions are likely to be more complex than previously described, involving presynaptic autoreceptors and heteroreceptors, and postsynaptic receptors on different populations of SN neurons.