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Immunoreactivity for GABA plasma membrane transporter, GAT-1, in the developing rat cerebral cortex: transient presence in the somata of neocortical and hippocampal neurons.


The immunoreactivity for a gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) membrane transporter, GAT-1, was examined in the neocortex and hippocampal formation of developing rats from the day of birth (postnatal day 0, P0) to the adult stage. The immunolabeling was mainly localized to the neuropil, but was also in a select population of cell bodies during a limited time period. Layers I and VIb of neocortex exhibited relatively high reactivity at birth, but diminished their staining with development. In contrast, GAT-1 immunoreactivity in the neuropil in the cortical plate and its derivatives was light at birth, but increased rapidly during the first 2-3 postnatal weeks in an inside-out order. An adult pattern with immunoreactive puncta more densely distributed in layers II to IV than the deeper layers was completed by P30-45. The neuropil reactivity in the hippocampal formation at P0 was greater than that in the neocortex, densely localized in a supragranular band, and less densely in the hilus of the dentate gyrus and the strata radiatum and oriens of the hippocampus. This pattern was basically maintained at later stages except that the immunoreactivity in the supragranular band diminished, whereas that in the subgranular zone was enhanced. A population of cell bodies morphologically characteristic of cortical and hippocampal interneurons was substantially immunolabeled for GAT-1 by P5 and remained until P30. At the electron microscopic level, GAT-1 immunoreactivity was localized mainly to axon terminals and astrocytes between P5 and P45, but was also found in neuronal somata and their dendrites between P5 and P30. Our data show a differential postnatal development of GAT-1 immunoreactivity in the rat cerebral cortex, including a transient presence of immunoreactivity in the somata of a subpopulation of cerebral interneurons and a developmental downregulation of GAT-1 expression in the earliest generated cortical elements (layers 1 and VIb). The findings in the present study suggest that GAT-1 expression in the neocortex and hippocampus may relate to the functional maturation of the GABAergic system.

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