Electron microscopy of immunoreactivity patterns for glutamate and γ-aminobutyric acid in synaptic glomeruli of the feline spinal trigeminal nucleus (subnucleus caudalis)

B. Iliakis, N. L. Anderson, P. S. Irish, M. A. Henry, L. E. Westrum

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We studied the ultrastructure of the synaptic organization in the feline spinal trigeminal nucleus, emphasizing specific neurotransmitter patterns within lamina II of the pars caudalis/ medullary dorsal horn. Normal adults were perfused, and Vibratome sections from pars caudalis were processed for electron microscopy. Ultrathin sections were reacted with antibodies for the excitatory neurotransmitter glutamate (Glu) and for the inhibitory neurotransmitter γ-aminobutyric acid (GABA) by using postembedding immunogold techniques. Both single- and double-labeled preparations were examined. Results with single labeling show that Glu-immunoreactive terminals have round synaptic vesicles and form asymmetric synaptic contacts onto dendrites. GABA-immunoreactive axon terminals and vesicle-containing dendrites have pleomorphic vesicles, and the axon terminals form symmetric contacts onto dendrites and other axons. Double labeling on a single section shows glomeruli with central Glu-immunoreactive terminals that are presynaptic to dendrites, including GABA+ vesicle-containing dendrites. These Glu+ terminals are also postsynaptic to GABA+ axon terminals, and these GABA-immunoreactive terminals may also be presynaptic to the GABA+ vesicle-containing dendrites. Quantitative analyses confirm the specificity of the Glu and GABA immunoreactivities seen in the various glomerular profiles. The results suggest that a subpopulation of Glu-immunoreactive primary afferents (excitatory) may be under the direct synaptic influence of a GABA-immunoreactive intrinsic pathway (inhibitory) by both presynaptic and postsynaptic mechanisms.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)465-477
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of Comparative Neurology
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 11 1996



  • Excitatory amino acids
  • Inhibitory
  • Nociception
  • Primary afferents
  • Substantia gelatinosa

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience(all)

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