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Cholinergic terminals in the ventral horn of adult rat and cat: evidence that glutamate is a cotransmitter at putative interneuron synapses but not at central synapses of motoneurons.

Journal article
Authors T T Liu
B A Bannatyne
Elzbieta Jankowska
D J Maxwell
Published in Neuroscience
Volume 161
Issue 1
Pages 111-22
ISSN 1873-7544
Publication year 2009
Published at Institute of Neuroscience and Physiology, Department of Physiology
Pages 111-22
Language en
Keywords Acetylcholine, metabolism, Animals, Anterior Horn Cells, metabolism, Cats, Glutamic Acid, metabolism, Interneurons, metabolism, Motor Neurons, metabolism, Neurotransmitter Agents, metabolism, Presynaptic Terminals, metabolism, Rats, Rats, Sprague-Dawley, Receptors, AMPA, metabolism, Species Specificity, Synapses, metabolism, Vesicular Glutamate Transport Proteins, metabolism
Subject categories Physiology


Until recently it was generally accepted that the only neurotransmitter to be released at central synapses of somatic motoneurons was acetylcholine. However, studies on young mice (P0-10) have provided pharmacological evidence indicating that glutamate may act as a cotransmitter with acetylcholine at synapses between motoneurons and Renshaw cells. We performed a series of anatomical experiments on axon collaterals obtained from intracellularly labeled motoneurons from an adult cat and labeled by retrograde transport in adult rats to determine if glutamate is co-localized with acetylcholine by these terminals. We could find no evidence for the presence of vesicular glutamate transporters in motoneuron axon terminals of either species. In addition, we were unable to establish any obvious relationship between motoneuron terminals and the R2 subunit of the AMPA receptor (GluR2). However we did observe a population of cholinergic terminals in lamina VII which did not originate from motoneurons but were immunoreactive for the vesicular glutamate transporter 2 and formed appositions to GluR2 subunits. These were smaller than motoneuron terminals and, unlike them, formed no relationship with Renshaw cells. The evidence suggests that glutamate does not act as a cotransmitter with acetylcholine at central synapses of motoneurons in the adult cat and rat. However, glutamate is present in a population of cholinergic terminals which probably originate from interneurons where its action is via an AMPA receptor.

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