Post-embedding immunolabelling methods were applied to semi-thin and ultrathin resin sections to examine the relationships between glycine- and γ-aminobutyric acid (GABA)-immunoreactive terminals on trigeminal motoneurones, which were identified by the retrograde transport of horseradish peroxidase injected into the jaw-closer muscles. Serial sections were cut through boutons and alternate sections were incubated with antibodies to glycine and GABA. Light-microscopic analysis of semi-thin sections revealed a similar pattern of glycine and GABA-immunoreactive boutons along the motoneurone soma and proximal dendrites, and of immunoreactive cell bodies in the parvocellular reticular and peritrigeminal areas surrounding the motor nucleus. Immunoreactive synaptic terminals on motoneurones were identified on serial ultrathin sections at electron-microscopic level using a quantitative immunogold method. ee populations of immunolabelled boutons were recognized: boutons immunoreactive for glycine alone (32%), boutons immunoreactive for GABA alone (22%), and boutons showing co-existence of glycine and GABA immunoreactivities (46%). Terminals which were immunoreactive for glycine only contained a higher proportion of flattened synaptic vesicles than those which were immunoreactive for GABA only, which contained predominantly spherical vesicles. Terminals which exhibited both immunoreactivities contained a mixture of vesicle types. All three classes of terminal formed azo-dendritic and axo-somatic contacts onto retrogradely labelled motoneurones. A relatively high proportion (25%) of boutons that were immunoreactive for both transmitters formed synapses on somatic spines. However, only GABA-immunoreactive boutons formed the presynaptic elements at axo-axonic contacts: none of these were found to contain glycine immunoreactivity. These data provide ultrastructural evidence for the role of glycine and GABA as inhibitory neurotransmitters at synapses onto jaw-closer motoneurones, but suggest that presynaptic control of transmission at excitatory (glutamatergic) synapses on motoneurones involves GABAergic, but not glycinergic inhibition.
- electron microscopy
- parvocellular reticular nucleus
- peritrigeminal nucleus
- trigeminal motor nucleus