Expression of plasma membrane GABA transporters but not of the vesicular GABA transporter in dentate granule cells after kainic acid seizures

Günther Sperk*, Christoph Schwarzer, Jutta Heilman, Sabine Furtinger, Richard J. Reimer, Robert H. Edwards, Nathan Nelson

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

59 Scopus citations


Kainic acid-induced seizures cause a marked increase in the expression of glutamate decarboxylase 67 (GAD67) in granule cells of the dentate gyrus. To determine the possible modes of sequestration of newly formed γ-aminobutyric acid (GABA), we used in situ hybridization and immunocytochemistry to investigate the expression of several proteins related to GABA in dentate granule cells of rats 4 h to 60 days after kainic acid-induced status epilepticus and in controls. GAD67 and GAD65 mRNA levels were increased by up to 300% and 800%, respectively, in the granule cell layer 6-24 h after kainate injection. Subsequently, increased GAD and GABA immunoreactivity was observed in the terminal field of mossy fibers and in presumed dendrites of granule cells. mRNA of both known plasma membrane GABA transporters (GAT-1 and GAT-3) was expressed in granule cells of control rats. GAT-1 mRNA levels increased (by 30%) 9 h after kainate injection but were reduced by about 25% at later intervals. GAT-3 mRNA was reduced (by 35-75%) in granule cells 4 h to 30 days after kainic acid injection. In contrast, no expression of the mRNA or immunoreactivity of the vesicular GABA transporter was detected in granule cells or in mossy fibers, respectively. GABA transaminase mRNA was only faintly expressed in granule cells, and its levels were reduced (by 60-65%) 12 h to 30 days after kainate treatment. The results indicate that GABA can be taken up and synthesized in granule cells. No evidence for the expression of the vesicular GABA transporter (VGAT) in granule cells was obtained. After sustained epileptic seizures, the markedly increased expression of glutamate decarboxylase and the reduced expression of GABA transaminase may result in increased cytoplasmic GABA concentrations in granule cells. It is suggested that, during epileptic seizures, elevated intracellular GABA and sodium concentration could then result in nonvesicular release of GABA from granule cell dendrites. GABA could then act on GABA-A receptors, protecting granule cells from overexcitation.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)806-815
Number of pages10
Issue number7
StatePublished - 2003


  • Epilepsy
  • GABA transaminase
  • Kainic acid
  • Mossy fibers
  • Plasticity


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