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PLoS By Category | Recent PLoS Articles
Anesthesiology and Pain Management - Immunology - Neuroscience

Different Subtypes of GABA-A Receptors Are Expressed in Human, Mouse and Rat T Lymphocytes
Published: Tuesday, August 21, 2012
Author: Suresh K. Mendu et al.

by Suresh K. Mendu, Amol Bhandage, Zhe Jin, Bryndis Birnir

?-aminobutyric acid (GABA) is the most prominent neuroinhibitory transmitter in the brain, where it activates neuronal GABA-A receptors (GABA-A channels) located at synapses and outside of synapses. The GABA-A receptors are primary targets of many clinically useful drugs. In recent years, GABA has been shown to act as an immunomodulatory molecule. We have examined in human, mouse and rat CD4+ and CD8+ T cells which subunit isoforms of the GABA-A channels are expressed. The channel physiology and drug specificity is dictated by the GABA-A receptor subtype, which in turn is determined by the subunit isoforms that make the channel. There were 5, 8 and 13 different GABA-A subunit isoforms identified in human, mouse and rat CD4+ and CD8+ T cells, respectively. Importantly, the ?2 subunit that imposes benzodiazepine sensitivity on the GABA-A receptors, was only detected in the mouse T cells. Immunoblots and immunocytochemistry showed abundant GABA-A channel proteins in the T cells from all three species. GABA-activated whole-cell transient and tonic currents were recorded. The currents were inhibited by picrotoxin, SR95531 and bicuculline, antagonists of GABA-A channels. Clearly, in both humans and rodents T cells, functional GABA-A channels are expressed but the subtypes vary. It is important to bear in mind the interspecies difference when selecting the appropriate animal models to study the physiological role and pharmacological properties of GABA-A channels in CD4+ and CD8+ T cells and when selecting drugs aimed at modulating the human T cells function.
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