Extrasynaptic localization of taurine-like immunoreactivity in the lamprey spinal cord.J Comp Neurol. 1994 Sep 08; 347(2):301-11.JC
Taurine is an endogenous amino acid that can occur in nerve terminals in the central nervous system and that can produce inhibitory neuronal responses. It is unclear, however, whether this amino acid can function as a synaptic transmitter. To examine the distribution of taurine at high anatomical resolution in a vertebrate, light and electron microscopic immunocytochemical postembedding techniques were applied to the lamprey spinal cord (Ichtyomyzon unicuspis and Lampetra fluviatilis), which contains many large, unmyelinated axons. The most intense immunolabeling occurred in a population of liquor-contacting cells (tanycytes), located around the central canal, which extended processes to the dorsal, lateral, and ventral margins of the spinal cord. In addition, a proportion of the taurine-immunoreactive cells contained gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA)-like immunoreactivity. A moderate level of taurine immunoreactivity was also present in ependymal cells, located around the central canal, as well as in astrocytes throughout all regions of the spinal cord. At the ultrastructural level, the taurine immunoreactivity showed an even distribution in the cytoplasm of the labeled cells. In contrast to the glial labeling, neuronal cell bodies and axons exhibited very low levels of taurine labeling, which were similar to the level of background labeling. The synaptic vesicle clusters within the axons did not show any clear accumulation of taurine immunoreactivity. These results suggest that taurine may have metabolic roles in the lamprey spinal cord, and, as in other systems, it may take part in osmoregulation. However, the lack of immunolabeling in presynaptic elements is not consistent with a role of taurine as a synaptic transmitter.