γ-Aminobutyric acid (GABA) and glycine are major inhibitory neurotransmitters that are released from nerve terminals by exocytosis via synaptic vesicles. Here we report that synaptic vesicles immunoisolated from rat cerebral cortex contain high amounts of GABA in addition to glutamate. Synaptic vesicles from the rat medulla oblongata also contain glycine and exhibit a higher GABA and a lower glutamate concentration than cortical vesicles. No other amino acids were detected. In addition, the uptake activities of synaptic vesicles for GABA and glycine were compared. Both were very similar with respect to substrate affinity and specificity, bioenergetic properties, and regional distribution. We conclude that GABA, glycine, and glutamate are the only major amino acid neurotransmitters stored in synaptic vesicles and that GABA and glycine are transported by similar, if not identical, transporters.
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