Phosphate-activated glutaminase (PAG) is the major enzyme involved in the synthesis of the excitatory neurotransmitter glutamate in cortical neurons of the mammalian cerebral cortex. In this study, the distribution and morphology of glutamatergic neurons in cat visual cortex was monitored through immunocytochemistry for PAG. We first determined the specificity of the anti-rat brain PAG polyclonal antibody for cat brain PAG. We then examined the laminar expression profile and the phenotype of PAG-immunopositive neurons in area 17 and 18 of cat visual cortex. Neuronal cell bodies with moderate to intense PAG immunoreactivity were distributed throughout cortical layers II-VI and near the border with the white matter of both visual areas. The largest and most intensely labeled cells were mainly restricted to cortical layers III and V. Careful examination of the typology of PAG-immunoreactive cells based on the size and shape of the cell body together with the dendritic pattern indicated that the vast majority of these cells were pyramidal neurons. However, PAG immunoreactivity was also observed in a paucity of non-pyramidal neurons in cortical layers IV and VI of both visual areas. To further characterize the PAG-immunopositive neuronal population we performed double-stainings between PAG and three calcium-binding proteins, parvalbumin, calbindin and calretinin, to determine whether GABAergic non-pyramidal cells can express PAG, and neurofilament protein. a marker for a subset of pyramidal neurons in mammalian neocortex. We here present PAG as a neurochemical marker to map excitatory cortical neurons that use the amino acid glutamate as their neurotransmitter in cat visual cortex. (C) 2003 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.