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1.  Plasma membrane transporters GAT-1 and GAT-3 contribute to heterogeneity of GABAergic synapses in neocortex 
Cortical GABAergic synapses exhibit a high degree of molecular, anatomical and functional heterogeneity of their neurons of origins, presynaptic mechanisms, receptors, and scaffolding proteins. GABA transporters (GATs) have an important role in regulating GABA levels; among them, GAT-1 and GAT-3 play a prominent role in modulating tonic and phasic GABAAR-mediated inhibition. We asked whether GAT-1 and GAT-3 contribute to generating heterogeneity by studying their ultrastructural localization at cortical symmetric synapses using pre- and post-embedding electron microcopy. GAT-1 and GAT-3 staining at symmetric synapses showed that in some cases the transporters were localized exclusively over axon terminals; in others they were in both axon terminals and perisynaptic astrocytic processes; and in some others GAT-1 and GAT-3 were in perisynaptic astrocytic processes only. Moreover, we showed that the organizational pattern of GAT-1, but not of GAT-3, exhibits a certain degree of specificity related to the post-synaptic target of GABAergic synapses. These findings show that symmetric synapses expressing GAT-1 or GAT-3 are heterogeneous, and indicate that plasma membrane transporters can contribute to synaptic heterogeneity.
PMCID: PMC4110517  PMID: 25120439
GABA; GABA transporters; GAT-1; GAT-3; symmetric synapses; heterogeneity
2.  A Role for GAT-1 in Presynaptic GABA Homeostasis? 
In monoamine-releasing terminals, neurotransmitter transporters – in addition to terminating synaptic transmission by clearing released transmitters from the extracellular space – are the primary mechanism for replenishing transmitter stores and thus regulate presynaptic homeostasis. Here, we analyze whether GAT-1, the main plasma membrane GABA transporter, plays a similar role in GABAergic terminals. Re-examination of existing literature and recent data gathered in our laboratory show that GABA homeostasis in GABAergic terminals is dominated by the activity of the GABA synthesizing enzyme and that GAT-1-mediated GABA transport contributes to cytosolic GABA levels. However, analysis of GAT-1 KO, besides demonstrating the effects of reduced clearance, reveals the existence of changes compatible with an impaired presynaptic function, as miniature IPSCs frequency is reduced by one-third and glutamic acid decarboxylases and phosphate-activated glutaminase levels are significantly up-regulated. Although the changes observed are less robust than those reported in mice with impaired dopamine, noradrenaline, and serotonin plasma membrane transporters, they suggest that in GABAergic terminals GAT-1 impacts on presynaptic GABA homeostasis, and may contribute to the activity-dependent regulation of inhibitory efficacy.
PMCID: PMC3074441  PMID: 21503156
GABA; GABA transporters; GAT-1; mIPSCs; knock-out mice
3.  Analysis of Synaptotagmin, SV2, and Rab3 Expression in Cortical Glutamatergic and GABAergic Axon Terminals 
We investigated whether cortical glutamatergic and GABAergic release machineries can be differentiated on the basis of the nature and amount of proteins they express, by performing a quantitative analysis of the degree of co-localization of synaptotagmin (SYT) 1 and 2, synaptic vesicle protein 2 (SV2) A and B, and Rab3a and c in VGLUT1+, VGLUT2+, and VGAT+ terminals and synaptic vesicles (SVs) in rat cerebral cortex. Co-localization studies showed that VGLUT1 puncta had high levels of SV2A and B and of Rab3c, intermediate levels of SYT1, and low levels of SYT2 and Rab3c; VGLUT2 puncta exhibited intermediate levels of all presynaptic proteins studied; whereas vesicular GABA transporter (VGAT) puncta had high levels of SV2A and SYT2, intermediate levels of SYT1, Rab3a, and Rab3c, and low levels of SV2B. Since SV2B is reportedly expressed by glutamatergic neurons and we observed SV2B expression in VGAT puncta, we performed electron microscopic studies and found SV2B positive axon terminals forming symmetric synapses. Immunoisolation studies showed that the expression levels of the protein isoforms varied in the three populations of SVs. Expression of SYT1 was highest in VGLUT1–SVs, while SYT2 expression was similar in the three SV groups. Expression of SV2A was similarly high in all three SV populations, except for SV2B levels that were very low in VGAT SVs. Finally, Rab3a levels were similar in the three SV groups, while Rab3c levels were highest in VGLUT1–SVs. These quantitative results extend our previous studies on the differential expression of presynaptic proteins involved in neurotransmitter release in GABAergic and glutamatergic terminals and indicate that heterogeneity of the respective release machineries can be generated by the differential complement of SV proteins involved in distinct stages of the release process.
PMCID: PMC3254050  PMID: 22275882
VGAT; VGLUT1; VGLUT2; synaptotagmin; SV2; Rab3
4.  Cellular and Synaptic Localization of EAAT2a in Human Cerebral Cortex 
We used light and electron microscopic immunocytochemical techniques to analyze the distribution, cellular and synaptic localization of EAAT2, the main glutamate transporter, in normal human neocortex. EAAT2a-immunoreactivity (ir) was in all layers and consisted of small neuropilar puncta and rare cells. In white matter EAAT2a+ cells were numerous. Electron microscopic studies showed that in gray matter ∼77% of immunoreactive elements were astrocytic processes, ∼14% axon terminals, ∼2.8% dendrites, whereas ∼5% were unidentifiable. In white matter, ∼81% were astrocytic processes, ∼17% were myelinated axons, and ∼2.0% were unidentified. EAAT2a-ir was never in microglial cells and oligodendrocytes. Pre-embedding electron microscopy showed that ∼67% of EAAT2a expressed at (or in the vicinity of) asymmetric synapses was in astrocytes, ∼17% in axon terminals, while ∼13% was both in astrocytes and in axons. Post-embedding electron microscopy studies showed that in astrocytic processes contacting asymmetric synapses and in axon terminals, gold particle density was ∼25.1 and ∼2.8 particles/μm2, respectively, and was concentrated in a membrane region extending for ∼300 nm from the active zone edge. Besides representing the first detailed description of EAAT2a in human cerebral cortex, these findings may contribute to understanding its role in the pathophysiology of neuropsychiatric diseases.
PMCID: PMC3024003  PMID: 21258616
Glutamate transporters; EAAT2; human neocortex; immunogold post-embedding electron microscopy
5.  GLT-1 Promoter Activity in Astrocytes and Neurons of Mouse Hippocampus and Somatic Sensory Cortex 
GLT-1 eGFP BAC reporter transgenic adult mice were used to detect GLT-1 gene expression in individual cells of CA1, CA3 and SI, and eGFP fluorescence was measured to analyze quantitatively GLT-1 promoter activity in different cells of neocortex and hippocampus. Virtually all GFAP+ astrocytes were eGFP+; we also found that about 80% of neurons in CA3 pyramidal layer, 10–70% of neurons in I-VI layers of SI and rare neurons in all strata of CA1 and in strata oriens and radiatum of CA3 were eGFP+. Analysis of eGFP intensity showed that astrocytes had a higher GLT-1 promoter activity in SI than in CA1 and CA3, and that neurons had the highest levels of GLT-1 promoter activity in CA3 stratum pyramidale and in layer VI of SI. Finally, we observed that the intensity of GLT-1 promoter activity in neurons is 1–20% of that measured in astrocytes. These results showed that in the hippocampus and neocortex GLT-1 promoter activity is observed in astrocytes and neurons, detailed the distribution of GLT-1 expressing neurons, and indicated that GLT-1 promoter activity in both astrocytes and neurons varies in different brain regions.
PMCID: PMC2813724  PMID: 20161698
glutamate transporters; GLT-1/EAAT2; neurons; astrocytes; hippocampus; neocortex

Results 1-5 (5)