GABA‐immunoreactive terminals synapse on primate spinothalamic tract cells

Susan M. Carlton, Karin N. Westlund, Dongxian Zhang, William D. Willis

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    66 Scopus citations


    Gamma‐aminobutyric acid (GABA) is a putative inhibitory neurotransmitter in the vertebrate nervous system. Several lines of evidence suggest that GABA plays an important role in the processing and modulation of sensory input in the spinal cord dorsal horn. In the present study, the relationship between GABA‐immunoreactive (GABA‐IR) terminals and spinothalamic tract (STT) cells in the monkey lumbar cord was investigated. Physiologically characterized STT cells, one located in lamina V and two located in lateral lamina IV, were intracellularly injected with horseradish peroxidase (HRP). A fourth STT cell, located in lamina I, was retrogradely labeled following injection of HRP into the contralateral thalamus. Immunogold labeling of ultrathin sections through the cell bodies and proximal dendrites of the STT neurons demonstrated that the percentage of the GABA‐IR terminals in contact with these profiles was 24.7% and 36%, respectively. The average STT surface length contacted by GABA‐IR terminals for cell bodies and proximal dendrites was 18.2% and 26.7%, respectively. For the lamina I cell, 7 out of 35 (20%) of the terminals were GABA‐IR and they covered 9.6% of the surface analyzed. These data demonstrate that GABA‐IR terminals synapse directly on STT cells, constituting a substantial proportion of the terminal population on these cells. Furthermore, compared to the cell bodies, a greater percentage of the input on the proximal dendrites is GABAergic. These anatomical data are consistent with the findings of a previously published iontophoretic study that demonstrated that GABA can exert a strong inhibitory influence on STT cells. These findings are discussed in relation to GABAergic involvement in tonic and phasic inhibition of STT neurons.

    Original languageEnglish (US)
    Pages (from-to)528-537
    Number of pages10
    JournalJournal of Comparative Neurology
    Issue number4
    StatePublished - Aug 22 1992


    • antinociception
    • dorsal horn
    • electron microscopy
    • gamma‐aminobutyric acid
    • inhibition
    • monkey
    • spinal cord

    ASJC Scopus subject areas

    • General Neuroscience


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