Journal of Neurocytology

, Volume 34, Issue 6, pp 471–487 | Cite as

GABA-immunoreactive neurons and terminals in the cat periaqueductal gray matter: A light and electron microscopic study

  • Paolo Barbaresi


Immunocytochemical and electron microscopic methods were used to study the GABAergic innervation in adult cat periaqueductal gray matter (PAG). A mouse monoclonal antibody against γ -aminobutyric acid (GABA) was used to visualize the inhibitory neuronal system of PAG. At light microscopy, GABA-immunopositive (GABAIP) neurons formed two longitudinally oriented columns in the dorsolateral and ventrolateral PAG that accounted for 36% of the neuronal population of both PAG columns; their perikaryal cross-sectional area was smaller than that of unlabeled (UNL) neurons found in the same PAG subdivisions. At electron microscopic level, patches of GABA immunoreactivity were readily detected in neuronal cell bodies, proximal and distal dendrites, axons and axon terminals. Approximately 35–36% of all terminals were GABAIP; they established symmetric synapses with dendrites (84.72% of the sample in the dorsolateral PAG and 86.09% of the sample in the ventrolateral PAG) or with cell bodies (7–10% of the sample). Moreover, 49.15% of GABAIP axon terminals in the dorsolateral and 52.16% in the ventrolateral PAG established symmetric synapses with GABAIP dendrites. Immunopositive axon terminals and unlabeled terminals were also involved in the formation of a complex synaptic arrangment, i.e. clusters of synaptic terminals in close contact between them that were often observed in the PAG neuropil. Moreover, a fair number of axo-axonic synapses between GABAIP and/or UNL axon terminals were present in both PAG subdivisions. Several dendro-dendritic synapses between labeled and unlabeled dendrites were also observed in both PAG subdivisions. These results suggest that in the cat PAG there exist at least two classes of GABArgic neurons. The first class could exert a tonic control on PAG projecting neurons, the second could act on those GABAergic neurons that in turn keep PAG projecting neurons under tonic inhibition. The functional implications of this type of GABAergic synapse organization are discussed in relation to the dishinibitory processes that take place in the PAG.


GABA Column Synapse Dendrite Axon terminal 


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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Neurosciences, Section of Human PhysiologyMarche Polytechnic UniversityAnconaItaly

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