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Journal of Neuropathology & Experimental Neurology:
doi: 10.1097/NEN.0b013e31822c09bc
Original Articles

Decreased GABAA Receptor Binding in the Medullary Serotonergic System in the Sudden Infant Death Syndrome

Broadbelt, Kevin G. PhD; Paterson, David S. PhD; Belliveau, Richard A. BA; Trachtenberg, Felicia L. PhD; Haas, Elisabeth A. BA; Stanley, Christina MD; Krous, Henry F. MD; Kinney, Hannah C. MD

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γ-Aminobutyric acid (GABA) neurons in the medulla oblongata help regulate homeostasis, in part through interactions with the medullary serotonergic (5-HT) system. Previously, we reported abnormalities in multiple 5-HT markers in the medullary 5-HT system of infants dying from sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS), suggesting that 5-HT dysfunction is involved in its pathogenesis. Here, we tested the hypothesis that markers of GABAA receptors are decreased in the medullary 5-HT system in SIDS cases compared with controls. Using tissue receptor autoradiography with the radioligand 3H-GABA, we found 25% to 52% reductions in GABAA receptor binding density in 7 of 10 key nuclei sampled of the medullary 5-HT system in the SIDS cases (postconceptional age [PCA] = 51.7 ± 8.3, n = 28) versus age-adjusted controls (PCA = 55.3 ± 13.5, n = 8) (p ≤ 0.04). By Western blotting, there was 46.2% reduction in GABAAα3 subunit levels in the gigantocellularis (component of the medullary 5-HT system) of SIDS cases (PCA = 53.9 ± 8.4, n = 24) versus controls (PCA = 55.3 ± 8.3, n = 8) (56.8% standard in SIDS cases vs 99.35% in controls; p = 0.026). These data suggest that medullary GABAA receptors are abnormal in SIDS infants and that SIDS is a complex disorder of a homeostatic network in the medulla that involves deficits of the GABAergic and 5-HT systems.

© 2011 American Association of Neuropathologists, Inc


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