We examined the distribution of gamma-aminobutyric acid-like immunoreactivity (GABA-LI) in the rat kidney by light and electron microscopy. In vibratome sections, GABA-LI was present in both the renal medulla and cortex. The inner stripe of the outer medulla was most heavily and almost homogeneously labeled, whereas GABA-LI in the cortex was mainly confined only to some tubules. GABA-positive structures involved the epithelial cells of the thin and the thick ascending limbs of the loop of Henle, the connecting tubules, and the collecting ducts. In GABA-positive connecting tubules and collecting ducts the immunoreactivity was present in the cytoplasm of about half of the epithelial cells. As revealed by electron microscopy, the labeled cells in the collecting tubules were the light (principal) cells. No GABA-LI occurred in neuronal structures. These findings are consistent with the presence of a non-neuronal GABA system in the rat kidney. Furthermore, the specific distribution of GABA in the tubular epithelium suggests a functional significance of this amino acid in tubular transport processes.
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