The distributions of terminals containing gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) and of endings apposed to glycine receptors were investigated cytochemically in the ventral horn of the rat spinal cord. For this purpose, a polyclonal antibody raised to recognize glutamic acid decarboxylase (GAD), a synthetic enzyme for GABA, and three monoclonal antibodies (mAb's) directed against the glycine receptor were used. Double immunofluorescence showed that, surprisingly, GAD-positive terminals are closely associated in this system with glycine receptors at all the investigated cells, most of which were spinal motoneurons. Furthermore, double labeling was performed with immunoenzymatic recognition of GAD and indirect marking of mAb's with colloidal gold. With this combined approach, it was found, at the electron microscopic level, that all GAD-positive terminals are in direct apposition with glycine receptors while, on the other hand, not all glycine receptors are in front of GABA-containing boutons. This result is not due to a cross-reactivity of mAb's with GABA receptors as shown by using as a control synapses known to use GABA as a neurotransmitter in the cerebellar cortex. Indeed, no glycine receptor immunoreactivity was detected on Purkinje cells facing basket axon terminals. However, Purkinje neurons can express glycine receptor immunoreactivity at other synaptic contacts. Assuming that the presence of postsynaptic receptors for glycine indicates that this amino acid is used for neurotransmission at a given synapse, our results strongly support the notion that GABA and glycine, two classical inhibitory transmitters, coexist at some central connections. However, such is not always the case; in the cerebellum, Golgi terminals impinging on the dendrites of granule cells are either GAD-positive or face glycine receptors, in a well-segregated manner.

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