Cell-type-specific expression of catecholamine transporters in the rat brain

Author(s): Lorang D, Amara SG, Simerly RB


The dopamine transporter (DAT) and norepinephrine transporter (NET) terminate catecholaminergic neurotransmission at synapses by high-affinity sodium-dependent reuptake into presynaptic terminals, and are the initial sites of action for drugs of abuse and antidepressants. In the present study, we used in situ hybridization combined with immunohistochemistry to study the distribution of DAT and NET mRNA in the adult rat brain. Cells were first immunolabeled with antisera directed against one of the catecholamine-synthetic enzymes, tyrosine hydroxylase (TH), dopamine-beta-hydroxylase (DBH), or phenylethanolamine-N-methyltransferase (PNMT), in order to identify dopaminergic, noradrenergic, or epinephrine-containing cells. The immunolabeled cells were subsequently assayed for their ability to express catecholamine transporter mRNAs by in situ hybridization using either a rat DAT or NET cRNA probe. All dopaminergic cell groups of the mesencephalon contained high levels of DAT mRNA but only the A12 and A13 dopaminergic cell groups of the diencephalon appear to express detectable levels of DAT. All norepinephrine-containing cell bodies in the brainstem (locus coeruleus and lateral tegmentum) appear to express NET mRNA. In contrast, epinephrine-containing cell bodies of the brainstem do not appear to express NET mRNA, which raises the possibility that epinephrine may utilize a transporter that is distinct from the other bioactive amines, or may act as an endocrine regulator that does not require rapid reuptake mechanisms. Moreover, the cell-type-specific expression of catecholamine transporters suggests that DAT and NET gene expression may be closely linked to cellular mechanisms that specify transmitter phenotype. The termination of neurotransmission is a critical component of neural signaling and depends on the rapid removal of neurotransmitters from the synaptic cleft. Pharmacological evidence indicates that the action of monoamines at the synapse is terminated predominantly by rapid reuptake into presynaptic nerve endings via neurotransmitter-specific, high-affinity, Na(+)-dependent membrane transporter proteins. The cDNAs encoding distinct transporter proteins for the monoamines dopamine, norepinephrine, and serotonin have been cloned, expressed, and characterized in a variety of heterologous systems (Blakely et al., 1991; Giros et al., 1991; Hoffman et al., 1991; Kilty et al., 1991; Pacholczyk et al., 1991; Shimada et al., 1991; Usdin et al., 1991). Although the monoamine transporters share a high degree of sequence homology, they are distinguished by their monoamine substrate specificities and by their differential sensitivities to a wide spectrum of transport antagonists. For example, pharmacological agents that potently inhibit norepinephrine and serotonin transport, such as desmethylimipramine and citalopram, have little effect on the activity of the dopamine transporter (Javitch et al., 1983).(ABSTRACT TRUNCATED AT 400 WORDS)

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