12 GABA and GHB Neurotransmitters in Plants and Animals Academic Article uri icon


  • y-Aminobutyric acid (GABA) is a four-carbon non-protein amino acid conserved from bacteria to plants and vertebrates. In the latter it is mainly known as a neurotrans­mitter. The enzymes that synthesize and catabolize GABA constitute a metabolic pathway known as the GABA shunt which bypasses two steps of the tricarboxylic acid cycle. Func­tional genomics tools using Arabidopsis as a model system revealed that the GABA shunt is imperative for normal plant development and for response to stress, and suggest roles for GABA as an important metabolite as well as a potential signaling molecule. Moreover, y-hydroxybutyrate, a by-product of the GABA shunt and a neurotransmitter in animals, was recently discovered in plants. Here we discuss the possible roles of these two neurotrans­mitters in plants with focus on components that underlie their roles as signaling molecules.

publication date

  • January 1, 2006