Differential localization of GABAA receptor subunits in relation to rat striatopallidal and pallidopallidal synapses

Anna Gross, Robert Sims, J.D. Swinny, W. Sieghart, Paul J. Bolam, Ian Stanford

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As a central integrator of basal ganglia function, the external segment of the globus pallidus (GP) plays a critical role in the control of voluntary movement. The GP is composed of a network of inhibitory GABA-containing projection neurons which receive GABAergic input from axons of the striatum (Str) and local collaterals of GP neurons. Here, using electrophysiological techniques and immunofluorescent labeling we have investigated the differential cellular distribution of a1, a2 and a3 GABAA receptor subunits in relation to striatopallidal (Str-GP) and pallidopallidal (GP-GP) synapses. Electrophysiological investigations showed that zolpidem (100 nm; selective for the a1 subunit) increased the amplitude and the decay time of both Str-GP and GP-GP IPSCs, indicating the presence of the a1 subunits at both synapses. However, the application of drugs selective for the a2, a3 and a5 subunits (zolpidem at 400 nm, L-838,417 and TP003) revealed differential effects on amplitude and decay time of IPSCs, suggesting the nonuniform distribution of non-a1 subunits. Immunofluorescence revealed widespread distribution of the a1 subunit at both soma and dendrites, while double- and triple-immunofluorescent labeling for parvalbumin, enkephalin, gephyrin and the ?2 subunit indicated strong immunoreactivity for GABAAa3 subunits in perisomatic synapses, a region mainly targeted by local axon collaterals. In contrast, immunoreactivity for synaptic GABAAa2 subunits was observed in dendritic compartments where striatal synapses are preferentially located. Due to the kinetic properties which each GABAAa subunit confers, this distribution is likely to contribute differentially to both physiological and pathological patterns of activity.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)868-878
Number of pages11
JournalEuropean Journal of Neuroscience
Issue number5
Early online date11 Jan 2011
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2011


  • globus pallidus
  • immunofluorescence
  • zolpidem


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