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J Exp Biol. 1994 Nov;196:283-95.

Structure, function and brain localization of neurotransmitter transporters.

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  • 1Roche Institute of Molecular Biology, Nutley, NJ 07110.


We studied four different cDNAs encoding GABA transporters and three different cDNAs encoding glycine transporters in mouse and rat brains. A genomic clone of two of the glycine transporters (GLYT1a and GLYT1b) revealed that they derive from differential splicing of a single gene. The third glycine transporter (GLYT2) is encoded by a separate gene. Antibodies were raised against seven of these neurotransmitter transporters and their cytochemical localization in the mouse brain was studied. In general, we observed a deviation from the classical separation of neuronal and glial transporters. It seems that each of the neurotransmitter transporters is present in specific places in the brain and is expressed in a different way in very specific areas. For example, the GABA transporter GAT4, which also transports beta-alanine, was localized to neurons. However, GAT1, which is specific for GABA, was localized not only to neurons but also to glial cells. The recently discovered glycine transporter GLYT2 was of particular interest because of its deviation from the general structure by a very extended N terminus containing multiple potential phosphorylation sites. Western analysis and immunocytochemistry in frozen sections of mouse brain demonstrated a clear caudal-rostral gradient of GLYT2 distribution, with massive accumulation in the spinal cord and brainstem and less in the cerebellum. Its distribution is typically neuronal and it is present in processes with varicosities. A correlation as observed between the pattern we obtained and that observed previously from strychnine binding studies. The results indicate that GLYT2 is involved in the termination of glycine neurotransmission at the classical inhibitory system in the hindbrain. The availability of four different GABA transporters made it possible to look for specific binding sites upon the neurotransmitter transporters. An extensive program of site-directed mutagenesis led us to identify a potential neurotransmitter binding site on the GABA transporters.

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