GABA is predominantly an inhibitory transmitter. Mediated by GABAA receptors, GABA opens chloride channels, induces a passive flux of chloride ions, which is usually directed from extracellular to intracellular space, and hyperpolarizes postsynaptic neurons. Recent electrophysiological data suggested that GABA may also depolarize neurons and exert excitatory actions. However, it remained unclear whether excitatory GABA effects are based on reversed transmembrane chloride gradient due to modifications in extracellular or intracellular chloride concentrations. Here, the first histochemical evidence is provided for local redistribution of chloride in the CNS of healthy adult rats. Olfactory bulbs were examined using freeze substitution, silver trapping of chloride and intensification techniques at light and electron microscopic level. The chloride content of precipitates was evidenced by electron spectroscopic imaging using a CEM 902 (Zeiss) electron microscope. Chloride concentration was high in a subpopulation of some periglomerular cell bodies and isolated dendritic profiles, while it seemed to be very low in certain parts of the glomerular neuropil including intercellular clefts. Data suggest that reversed chloride gradients can be demonstrated by cytochemical methods, and may be responsible for excitatory GABA effects on selected periglomerular neurons and dendrites in the olfactory glomeruli. Conditions leading to chloride redistribution in the CNS of normal adult rats remain to be determined.
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