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Keywords:

  • development;
  • electron microscopy;
  • GABAB;
  • immunohistochemistry;
  • light microscopy;
  • ontogeny

Abstract

The highest densities of the two metabotropic GABA subunits, GABAB1 and GABAB2, have been reported as occurring around the glutamatergic synapses between Purkinje cell spines and parallel fibre varicosities. In order to determine how this distribution is achieved during development, we investigated the expression pattern and the cellular and subcellular localization of the GABAB1 and GABAB2 subunits in the rat cerebellum during postnatal development. At the light microscopic level, immunoreactivity for the GABAB1 and GABAB2 subunits was very prominent in the developing molecular layer, especially in Purkinje cells. Using double immunofluorescence, we demonstrated that GABAB1 was transiently expressed in glial cells. At the electron microscopic level, immunoreactivity for GABAB receptors was always detected both pre- and postsynaptically. Presynaptically, GABAB1 and GABAB2 were localized in the extrasynaptic membrane of parallel fibres at all ages, and only rarely in GABAergic axons. Postsynaptically, GABAB receptors were localized to the extrasynaptic and perisynaptic plasma membrane of Purkinje cell dendrites and spines throughout development. Quantitative analysis and three-dimensional reconstructions further revealed a progressive developmental movement of the GABAB1 subunit on the surface of Purkinje cells from dendritic shafts to its final destination, the dendritic spines. Together, these results indicate that GABAB receptors undergo dynamic regulation during cerebellar development in association with the establishment and maturation of glutamatergic synapses to Purkinje cells.